Picture: 123RF/KOSTIC DUSAN
Picture: 123RF/KOSTIC DUSAN

Parliament’s joint constitutional review committee will in November begin deliberating and drafting its report on the possibility of amending the constitution to make it clear how land should be expropriated without compensation.

The committee concluded its public hearings on Friday after receiving thousands of written submissions. Various stakeholders were also invited to make oral submissions on the sensitive matter which has polarised SA.

The summary and analysis of the submissions received will be crucial in the drafting of the final report by the committee, as it pushes to conclude its report and recommendations before the end of November.

The constitutional review committee was set up by parliament to help it decide whether there is a need to amend the constitution.

The ANC decided in December that constitutional amendments are necessary to address racially skewed land ownership patterns dating back to colonial and apartheid rule. The push by the governing party and the opposition EFF to amend section 25 of the constitution or the property clause 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.

The joint constitutional review committee has heard differing views on the possible amendment of section 25, with some supporting the alteration while others have argued that changing the constitution is unnecessary as provisions for expropriation without compensation are already included under current legislation.

In its submission on Friday, the FW de Klerk Foundation said it is opposed to an amendment of the constitution, but is in favour of land reform. The foundation proposed that a nominal amount could be paid for land, rather than zero compensation. It also indicated that the question of title deeds should be fast-tracked.

The Johannesburg Attorneys Association said in its submission on Friday that addressing the wrongs of the past is part of justice, but it must be accompanied by compensation. In the case where it can be proven that land was taken by “the barrel of the gun”, this would be a good reason to reduce that compensation to zero, the association said.

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.

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.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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