By Tichaona Zindoga
JOHANNESBURG – President Jacob Zuma has reignited the emotive issue of land redistribution here, urging black parties to unite and amend the country’s constitution to pave way for expropriation without compensation, setting the stage for what could be the next hotspot of land reform in Southern Africa after Zimbabwe.
There is also simmering hunger for land in Namibia and the country is contemplating holding a conference to address the issue.
A fortnight ago, while presenting his State of the Nation Address, Zuma called for “radical transformation”, which includes changing the wealth ownership dynamics, but when the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) presented a motion in Parliament to amend the constitution, it was defeated by the ANC and the Democratic Alliance-dominated house.
However, last week during his annual address to the House of Traditional Leaders, Zuma dug in and called for the amendment of the constitution to allow for expropriation.
Section 25 of the Constitution of South Africa deals with the issue of land and states, inter alia, that:
“Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application—
(a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and
(b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.”
Amending this contentious section has become Zuma’s goal – with the support of EFF – and he sees it as a way to change the economic dynamics of the country.
“The economy is not in our hands. We are not in control of economic power,” President Zuma said at the annual meeting with chiefs, “The central element of the economy is land.”
He explained that the ANC government had identified weaknesses in the willing buyer, willing seller model.
He said: “Willing buyer, willing seller did not work. It made the state’s price tag an unfair process. In addition there are many laws dealing with land which cause confusion and delays.”
He outlined that an audit must be carried out and subsequent to it, a constitutional amendment, to legalise taking the land.
“First we must undertake a pre-colonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation patterns. Once the audit has been completed, a single law should be developed to address the issue of land restitution without compensation.
“The necessary constitutional amendments would then be undertaken to effect this process,” he said.
Changes are also to be rung in institutions that will implement land reform.
“We are also looking at the possible re-design and establishment of the National Land Claims Commission as a Chapter 9 institution, so that it can have the necessary powers to help us reverse this historical injustice.
“This would also require a Constitutional amendment.”
It remains to be seen how, and if, President Zuma will be able to lean onto his party to effect these changes.
The ANC only recently helped to defeat the motion to amend Section 25 which the opposition EFF tabled in Parliament.
Phumuzile Ngwenya-Mabila, ANC MP and chairperson of the Rural Development and Development Committee, shot down the motion saying the party knew “the history of the land dispossession”.
“We also know how we are going to address that. We are not going to be told what to do. We are not in alliance with anyone else. We are a ruling government,” she said.
“We agree as the ANC that the land reform process is slow, that is why various programmes have been initiated to address the land question…we totally reject that we amend Section 25 (2) of the Constitution.
“Expropriation of land should be done for public purpose and public interests, not for the EFF purpose and the EFF interests. Secondly, expropriation without compensation is unconstitutional. “We need to respect and uphold the Constitution as citizens of this country and moreover as members of this House…we believe that the Constitution is the supreme law of the country therefore it cannot be reviewed by the ad hoc committee.”
The EFF had even offered its 6 percent to help the ANC, which does not have the two-thirds majority in Parliament to effect amendment to Section 25.
Argued EFF leader Julius Malema: “Today the ANC should come with the EFF – there is 6 percent available, we give it to you with no condition to amend the Constitution and take the land. If you don’t agree with us today … it means you don’t agree with your outgoing President on the issue of expropriation of land without compensation. Even to the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, I say this is a matter that can unite black people.
“This is a matter that all of us should stand together for and isolate white monopoly capital. This is a matter that indicates to us that this is a genuine call which we as black people can identify with.”
The motion fell by 33 to 261.
Earlier this week in an interview with the state broadcaster SABC, Malema reiterated the 6 percent support in Parliament and went on to say that if the ruling party agreed on land reform, his party would be irrelevant and fold.
Radical land reform may be a problem for Zuma and the ruling ANC, a prominent analyst has said.
Governance specialist at the UNISA School of Governance, Dumisani Hlope, told The Southern Times that ANC faced an uphill task since it no longer enjoyed two-thirds majority in Parliament.
“It is a difficult one because the ANC is at its weakest since 1994 as it has been losing ground to the opposition.
“Radical transformation should have taken place between 1994 and 1998 when the party had two-thirds majority in Parliament and when it was strong but now it wants to undertake radical transformation when it is at its weakest,” said Hlope.
He said that the ANC had lost local government elections and had seen itself losing historical capital as a party.
According to him, the ANC did not possess the legal, constitutional and bureaucratic capabilities to “generate redistributive policies”.
He pointed out that the party had failed to move government on key ideological issues and policies such as free education.
“The idea is not how much the President can talk but how he can influence the National Executive Committee of the party to make a conscious shift to the left and deal with issues of radical transformation.
“Zuma can talk tough but until there is a shift at the NEC, it remains useless rhetoric,” said Hlope.