Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

The DA has vowed to approach the Constitutional Court to challenge the drive to amend section 25 of the constitution, which would allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

“The DA opposes the amendment of our precious Bill of Rights, and we will continue to fight it in the highest court in the land,” DA MP Thandeka Mbabama said during a debate on the state of the nation address (Sona) on Wednesday.

“The DA will not allow the ANC and the EFF to trample on the rights of South Africans,” Mbabama said.

In December, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) adopted a contentious report that called for a constitutional amendment to make it explicit that expropriation without compensation could be used to address skewed land ownership patterns dating back to the colonial era.

An ad hoc committee led by National Assembly house chair Thoko Didiza has been elected and has already met to start looking at the amendments.

The committee consists of 11 voting members of the National Assembly and will be made up of six members from the ANC, two from the DA, one from the EFF and two from other parties. The committee will also consist of 14 nonvoting members of the National Assembly — two from the ANC, one from the DA, one from the EFF and 10 from other parties.

The debate on the matter has polarised the country and spooked investors, with the proposed amendment set to be challenged in court by various stakeholders and political parties.

The matter could eventually be processed by the next parliament after the elections, which will take place in May. This means the amendment might not happen at all if the ANC and EFF fail to secure a two-thirds majority between them.

In his state of the nation address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government has identified land parcels owned by the state for redistribution as part of accelerating land reform.

The state has a property portfolio of more than 93,000 buildings and more than 1.9-million hectares of land under the custodianship of the department of public works.

Critics of the drive to amend section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation often say the government should focus on redistributing land it owns,  some of which is unaccounted for or underutilised.

Mbabama said the only relevant statement the president made during his state of the nation address (Sona) was the identification of state land parcels for redistribution.

“This lack of clarity points to an absence of consensus and direction in the ANC government around the policy of expropriation of land without compensation, proving that it is indeed being used as an election gimmick by the ANC, and something to rally around, thus creating a false sense of unity in the party,” Mbabama said.

In his address last week, Ramaphosa said an expert advisory panel he established would submit its report in March.

“Our policy and legislative interventions will ensure that more land is made available for agriculture, industrial development and human settlements. I wish to commend the many South Africans who participated in the work of the Constitutional Review Committee in the dialogue that ensued through the length and the breadth of the country,” the president said.

“Alongside this constitutional review process, we tasked the deputy president to lead the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform to fast-track land reform. An advisory panel of experts headed by Dr Vuyo Mahlati, established to advise government on its land reform programme, is expected to table its report by the end of March 2019,” Ramaphosa said.

The president is scheduled to respond to the debate on Thursday.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za