‘Constitution not reason for SA’s dismal land reform track record’

Dr Ruth Hall says to allow for expropriation in all cases, the Constitution would need massive changes, requiring a 75% majority to pass in Parliament.

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CAPE TOWN - Land reform expert Dr Ruth Hall says the Constitution could be changed to clarify when expropriation without compensation is necessary – but this would be for political rather than practical purposes.

Hall says it’s not the Constitution but rather the government’s failure to use it that lies at the heart of South Africa’s failure to change apartheid’s legacy of racially skewed ownership.

Hall, of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape, was speaking at Parliament.

She’s among a number of academics who made presentations on Tuesday before the committee tasked with tapping public opinion on whether or not the Constitution should be changed to spell out when expropriation without compensation can be done.

Like most other presenters there, Dr Hall was clear that the Constitution is not the reason for South Africa’s dismal land reform track record.

But she suggested an amendment allowing for expropriation without compensation in some cases might offer a political way out.

“This doesn’t actually resolve any practical problem at all – but it does perhaps a political problem and it sends out a political signal which is that the state and the ruling party are not going to be held back by the requirement of compensation to advance land reform.”

Hall says to allow for expropriation in all cases, the Constitution would need massive changes, requiring a 75% majority to pass in Parliament.

Nationalising all land would require no amendment but the ANC is committed to a policy of state, private and communal land ownership.