Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SOWETAN
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SOWETAN

The ANC will amend the Constitution in order to make it "explicitly clear" that land can be expropriated without compensation, but it is not targeting the entire property clause.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s late-night announcement on Tuesday on the ANC decision weakened the rand and dented investor sentiment at a time when the government is on a drive to attract investment in the economy locally and abroad.

The ANC decision was a decidedly political one that sought to neutralise the EFF and also Ramaphosa’s opponents within the ANC, who have questioned his commitment to radical economic transformation.

The decision was communicated by the president on Tuesday night and further explained by national executive committee members at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The rand reacted sharply to Ramaphosa’s announcement, falling about 18c to the dollar to R13.28. After extending losses overnight, it recovered somewhat on Wednesday and by the evening it was at R13.20/$.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said the decision to amend the Constitution was motivated by the sentiment during public hearings conducted by the parliamentary constitutional review committee.

The ANC’s economic transformation head, Enoch Godongwana, said the party could not ignore the voices of the people in the hearings, who overwhelmingly felt the Constitution should be altered.

Sources who were at the two-day ANC lekgotla that decided on the move said it was important for the message to be conveyed by Ramaphosa himself, in order to neutralise those in the faction aligned to former president Jacob Zuma, who have used the land issue to attack the president.

The nuts and bolts of the decision are still being worked out, but Business Day understands that part of the resolution is to withdraw and rework the Expropriation Bill currently before Parliament. Godongwana said the ANC had previously said it might have to amend Section 25 (2) b, which specifically deals with compensation.

According to sources, Section 25 (8), which stated that no provision of the section should impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land reform, would require changes.

National executive committee economic transformation subcommittee member Ronald Lamola described the move by the ANC as "affirmative action on land" — one seeking to fairly distribute some of the 72% of land owned by white people.

With Karl Gernetzky