Cosatu. Picture: REUTERS
Cosatu. Picture: REUTERS

Cosatu sees no need to change the constitution to make it easier to expropriate land without compensation — and thinks the poor need the protection offered by the constitution as it stands.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, SA’s biggest labour federation and an ANC ally, is opposed to changing the constitution, which already enables the state to tackle land reform, restitution and redistribution.

The clause that deals with land rights and expropriation "is important because it protects the poor from a possible abuse by a future government", Cosatu said on Wednesday.

"In our quest to expropriate land from white people, we need not be shortsighted and throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Government data shows more than two-thirds of farmland is owned by whites, who constitute 7.8% of the country’s 57.7 million people — a status quo rooted in colonial rule and apartheid.

The ANC decided in December that the situation is untenable and tasked a parliamentary committee to review the constitution to address it. The panel is holding public hearings in parliament in Cape Town this week.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been criticised for taking a populist stance similar to the EFF’s on the land issue, to shore up support for the ANC in the run-up to next year’s elections.

Uncertainty over property rights has rattled markets and investor confidence.

But Ramaphosa has given assurances that the government is not embarking on a land grab and that any policy changes will not be allowed to damage agricultural production.