Vuyo Mahlati. File photo: MARTIN RHODES
Vuyo Mahlati. File photo: MARTIN RHODES

The willing-buyer, willing-seller model of land redistribution has proved to be unsustainable and legislation must be enacted to provide clarity on expropriation without compensation, parliament heard on Thursday.

According to the African Farmers Association of SA (Afasa), an association of black farmers with about 300,000 members, the focus on a “market-based approach” has failed to tackle the skewed patterns of land ownership in SA. This, the association says, has mostly failed black farmers who continue to struggle to access finance and markets.

The constitutional review committee set up by parliament to help it decide whether there is a need to amend the constitution is continuing with public hearings on the sensitive matter as it bids to conclude its report by November.

In her submission to the committee, Afasa president Vuyo Mahlati said the failure of land reform has disadvantaged black farmers. She said SA needs specific legislation on the issue of expropriation of land with or without compensation.

“We need a constitution that provides clarity on the matter of expropriation … the focus has been on a market-based approach and this has failed us. We are calling for amendments for clarity,” said Mahlati.

She also said the question of water rights needs to be addressed as 98% of water rights reside with white establishments.

Women on Farms, a nongovernmental organisation working with women in commercial agriculture mainly in the Western Cape, told the committee the provisions in the constitution are unclear. It gave its support for amendments to the constitution to make provision for expropriation without compensation. It  also called for an immediate moratorium on the eviction of farm workers, which the organisation said still happens to many workers in the Western Cape.

The push by the ANC and the opposition EFF to amend section 25 of the constitution to make it clear how land should be expropriated without compensation has spooked investors amid growing negative sentiment towards emerging markets.

Some commentators have warned that wholesale expropriation without compensation will threaten food security and negatively affect economic activity and job creation as the country battles with high unemployment.

However, President Cyril Ramaphosa and senior government officials insist that expropriation will be done in an orderly way that will not disrupt food security. It remains unclear whether parliament will be able to process any legislative amendments before the 2019 elections.

Ramaphosa announced in September that he had appointed the advisory panel to guide the interministerial committee on land reform chaired by his deputy, David Mabuza. The panel was mandated to review, research and suggest models for the government to implement a fair and equitable land-reform process that redresses injustices of the past, increases agricultural output, promotes economic growth and protects food security, Ramaphosa said.

The constitutional review committee was initially scheduled to report to parliament by the end of September. However, the committee requested an extension, citing the volume of the submissions it had received.

The public hearings continue on Friday.