Voices over the can of worms opened over expropriation of land without compensation by parliament on February 27 continued to be added to the debate yesterday, as the August deadline for the constitutional review committee report-back inexorably closed in.
“When I got to know the majority of the parliamentarians were backing the motion, I couldn’t sleep the whole night,” said Free Market Foundation (FMF) director Temba Nolutshungu. “I just could not comprehend how, given our history in terms of the Natives Land Act, we could contemplate this.”
Nolutshungu was detained twice under apartheid, in terms of the General Law Amendment Act and the Terrorism Act.
Speaking at the FMF on expropriation without compensation, Nolutshunga noted his prediction at the time of increased land grabs had come to pass.
Umlazi, Hermanus, Mfuleni, Gugulethu, Philippi, Alexandra and Midrand had all seen attempts since February.
“If something is enshrined in the constitution, the supreme law of the land, it cannot be easily removed.
“So if it does happen that this initiative carries through and the amendment is effected to the constitution so that it becomes possible for land – and in a broader sense property – to be expropriated without compensation, heaven help us all,” said Nolutshungu.
He said the proposed amendment did not apply to whites only, but black Africans should understand it would apply to them as well and give carte blanche in terms of what could be confiscated.
“If it’s in the constitution, a couple of elections down the line and we might have a very different government to what prevails today,” Nolutshungu said, while warning ochlocracy (mob rule) was becoming more apparent.
Also speaking at the FMF was the Institute of Race Relations’ Terence Corrigan.
“Land is a very sensitive issue. No one who is familiar with South Africa cannot be moved by the suffering that has been associated with it,” he said.
“By focusing on land and historical injustices, to some extent you can divert attention from problems elsewhere such as urban governance – all the things which chew at the lives of ordinary South Africans.”
Corrigan warned expropriation without compensation did nothing to alleviate daily issues, let alone the issues raised by Kgalema Motlanthe’s high-level panel on the assessment of key legislation and the acceleration of fundamental change, such as the lack of political will, misunderstanding available legislation, inefficient project design and inadequate budgets, among other things.
“By shifting the focus, it ensures the problems will continue.”