The ANC conference has agreed to make amendments to the Constitution and Land Restitution Act that will pave the way for the State to expropriate land without compensation, said the party’s outgoing economic transformation subcommittee head Enoch Godongwana on Wednesday.
In a move that will likely put investors and public policy observers on edge, the ANC is pushing amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution, in order to fast-track the pace of SA’s land reform, redistribution and restitution programme.
“There’s is general anger about the [slow] pace of land redistribution and restitution and this propels the anger in communities. We will not fudge the issue,” said Godongwana told reporters at the final day of the ANC’s 54th elective conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.
The new ANC top-six leadership structure – led by newly-elected president Cyril Ramaphosa – will be tasked with carrying the amendments to the Constitution in Parliament.
About two-thirds of MPs are needed for amendments to the Constitution to pass muster. The ANC holds 62% of seats in Parliament.
The debate on the expropriation of land among ANC delegates was “rowdy”, said Godongwana, and even threatened to collapse the elective conference.
Godongwana said there is a general acceptance by the ANC that policy on land expropriation should be pursued in a sustainable way. This, for now, means that the expropriation of land must not undermine SA’s food security, agricultural land ownership and the economy.
“There should be no illegal occupation of land and this is part of the resolution we have taken.”
The current Constitution allows the State to acquire land for public purposes, but the seller must be compensated at a market-related price for the land. Since 1994, SA has moved from the willing buyer-willing-seller model to a just and equitable model. This model has even seen the establishment of a valuer-general office that determines the market value of land during expropriation negotiations.
In his maiden speech as ANC president, Ramaphosa said since 1994 the issue of land has preoccupied the minds of the South African populace.
“The ANC has managed the economy in a way that advances its people…. We are going to make sure as it [expropriation of land without compensation] is implemented and managed with due care.”
Godongwana didn’t elaborate on the timeline for the amendments to the Constitution or scenarios that would allow the State to expropriate land without compensation.
“We will put a reasonable test for this [proposal to expropriate land without compensation] by bringing experts to make sure the sustainability test is passed,” said Godongwana.
The sustainability test will also assess other sectors of the economy, such as financial services and insurance, which hold more than 50% of debt by commercial farmers.
He said the ANC will undertake a full audit of land owned by the State and appoint a high-level panel dealing with the land expropriation process. The amendments to the Constitution and the mechanics of this exercise will be discussed at its top-leadership level lekgotla at the end of January 2018.