Land expropriation: Ad hoc committee to be set up to amend Constitution

The National Assembly has passed a motion to establish an ad hoc committee that will draft an amendment to section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

In a heated debate, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu brought the motion to the National Assembly on Thursday after both houses of Parliament on Wednesday adopted the Joint Constitutional Review Committee's report which recommended an amendment.

The motion was adopted with 183 MPs voting yes, 77 voting no and no abstentions.

As expected, the parties that opposed the adoption of the commission's report – the DA, IFP, FF Plus, Cope and ACDP – also opposed the adoption of the motion, pointing to procedural flaws as they did with the report.

The parties that supported the report – ANC, EFF, UDM, NFP, AIC and APC – also supported the motion.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the Constitution requires public participation for it to be amended, but the motion "seeks to bind this House to adopting this bill".

'This is madness'

"What it (the passing of the motion) also says, very clearly, to the people of South Africa is that regardless of their submissions, this bill is a fait accompli (already decided)," Steenhuisen said.

"This is madness. The message it sends to the people of South Africa is 'we don't care what you say'."

Steenhuisen said the decision made a farce of the participatory parliamentary process.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi said the party knew there would be a "massive fightback" against expropriation without compensation by "beneficiaries of racism".

She referred to the slow pace of land redistribution since 1994.

"At the root of the problem is the constitutional framework."

'Your time is up, white people'

She said the EFF was ready with a proposed amendment, which would read that all land in private hands must be appropriated.

"Your time is up, white people," she said.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said his party objected to the haste with which the ANC tabled the motion and said the motion was flawed because of "procedural irregularities".

"We cannot allow the abuse of parliamentary process," Hlengwa said.

He said section 25 of the Constitution in its current form was broad enough to allow substantial land reform.

"The question we should ask is how to achieve real land reform," he said.

'Trump is watching'

NFP MP Sibusiso Mncwabe supported the adoption of the motion: "Let's continue giving this Christmas gift (expropriation without compensation) to our people."

UDM MP Mncedisi Filtane said there was a need for property expropriation and that banks should be prohibited from taking land as collateral.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said he could not in good conscience support an ill-conceived, fatally flawed motion.

"How can we amend the Bill of Rights without due and proper consideration?" he said.

FF Plus MP Anton Alberts warned that US President Donald Trump would be watching.

"He will kick us out of AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) like nothing."

Committee's recommendations 'irrational'

In reference to Mkhaliphi's warning that time was up for white people, he said to the ANC, "when the blood flows, it will be on your hands".

ANC MPs booed him.

Cope MP Deidre Carter said the Joint Constitutional Review Committee's recommendations were "irrational". She criticised the ANC for having not changed expropriation legislation, which dates back to the presidency of Hendrik Verwoerd's successor, BJ Vorster.

APC MP Themba Godi said: "Those who oppose the resolution of the land question are at peace with poverty and suffering."

Mthembu said the draft resolution's only intention was to create a mechanism to take forward the decision the House took on Tuesday.

He said the ad hoc committee would institute the constitutionally obligated public participation process.

"I thank all colleagues who agree with the establishment of the ad hoc committee, because it is the right thing to do," Mthembu said.

March 2019 deadline

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee's report recommended that section 25 of the Constitution be amended "to make explicit that which is implicit in the Constitution with regards to expropriation of land without compensation as a legitimate option for land reform, so as to address the historic wrongs caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land, and in so doing ensure equitable access to land and further empower the majority of South Africans to be productive participants in ownership, food security and agricultural reform programmes".

The report also recommended that the Constitutional Amendment Bill be tabled, processed and passed before the end of the Fifth Parliament, which will rise before next year's election, presumably in March or April.

The ad hoc committee will consist of 11 voting members of the National Assembly, six from the ANC, two from the DA, one from the EFF and two from other parties.

There will also be 14 non-voting members, with two from the ANC, one from the DA, one from the EFF and 10 from other parties.

The motion gives the committee a deadline of March 31, 2019, to complete its work.