Who should own the land? New thinking needed as debate on section 25 gets stuck
It’s been more than four years since the incendiary debate on amending the Constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation was unleashed on South Africa. The necessity of land reform and restitution is a statutory and moral imperative, and a process that successive governments have dismally failed in. But the possibility of a constitutional amendment was, from the onset, believed to be a sop offered to the radical elements in the ANC faction who lost the party’s leadership race to the group headed by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Immediately after Ramaphosa’s election, his advisers argued that the president will keep his hand over the process and that his party won’t do anything to jeopardise the cornerstone of the free market system, namely private property ownership. But years down the line, the parliamentary committee that was eventually tasked with crafting a sensible, legal and politically palatable amendment, is now deadlocked between the ANC, and the populist EFF.
The ANC needs the EFF’s support to pass the amendment in the National Assembly, but the latter’s demands seem to be tantamount to wholesale nationalisation of arable and other forms of land and immovable property. Ramaphosa himself last week indicated he does not support “state custodianship” as proposed by the EFF. But the ANC needs the EFF’s numbers to muscle the amendment through the National Assembly. The process has now deadlocked, and the issue of reform and restitution, as it has for most of democracy, remains moribund.
We have serious reporting on the matter this week. Both advocate Tembeke Ngcukaitobi and Professor Elmien du Plessis believe new thinking is needed, albeit that they differ on exactly what is needed. AgriSA’s Annelize Crosby says the law isn’t to blame for weak and slow reform, and News24’s parliamentary correspondent Jan Gerber – who has covered the process since inception – takes us into the heart of the process.
Pieter du Toit
Assistant Editor: Investigations and in-depth news
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s much-vaunted skills as negotiator might well meet its ultimate test in the resolution of the impasse on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution, writes parliamentary reporter Jan Gerber.
Land reform in South Africa has collapsed not because of the absence of an overarching enabling constitutional framework, but despite it. Changing that framework doesn’t guarantee access to land, nor does implementing state curatorship, writes Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.
More case law is needed in the land reform context, especially from the Constitutional Court to to give adequate guidance on the principles of justice and equity, writes Elmien du Plessis
The slow pace of land reform to date and the loss in production on land reform farms and the failure to empower people economically through land reform is a failure of implementation, rather than a failure of legal framework, writes AgriSA’s Annelize Crosby.
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