By Natasha Marrian for Business Day
The ANC has decided to change the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation.
This was decided at a two-day lekgotla held in Irene, outside Pretoria, which concluded on Tuesday.
The move is seen as one which reflects the majority perspective expressed at the ongoing hearings on land taking place across the country headed by Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee.
Business Day understands that a decision was taken by the ANC national executive committee lekgotla to “amend the Constitution to explicitly allow for expropriation without compensation”.
The party is set to make a submission to the parliamentary process under way to this effect.
The decision has far-reaching consequences for both the South African economy as well as its political space. It comes following yet another quarter in which the South African economy has shed jobs, with Statistics SA announcing an increase in the unemployment rate on Tuesday. The move is set to further dent investor sentiment and confidence by local business in the economy.
However, it can be viewed as a decidedly political move to neutralise the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) whose members have been dominating parliamentary hearings on whether the Constitution should be amended.
The ANC in a statement from President Cyril Ramaphosa late on Tuesday said it had become “patently clear that our people want the Constitution be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation, as demonstrated in the public hearings.
“There is also a growing body of opinion, by a number of South Africans, that the Constitution as it stands does not impede expropriation of land without compensation.
“The lekgotla reaffirmed its position that a comprehensive land reform programme that enables equitable access to land will unlock economic growth, by bringing more land in South Africa to full use, and enable the productive participation of millions more South Africans in the economy,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“Accordingly, the ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be affected.”
There has been intense debate inside the ANC about whether Section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to expropriate land without compensation.
The ANC took the decision on expropriation without compensation at its national elective conference at Nasrec in December. It partnered with the EFF in Parliament in February to vote for a motion for the expropriation of land without compensation. The EFF wants all SA land to belong to the state, but the ANC’s stance on this remains unclear. There have been dissenting views inside the ANC and the alliance over whether it was necessary to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.
Ramaphosa’s own investment envoy, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, said in June that explaining SA’s ongoing land debate to investors had been tougher than expected.