A report in Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport suggests that government attempts to change section 25 of the constitution to make expropriation without compensation “more explicit” may ultimately fail, paradoxically, due to the party most known for pushing for such constitutional change.
Earlier this year, the Economic Freedom Fighters tabled a motion in parliament to change the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation that was supported by numerous other parties, including the governing ANC.
A parliamentary review committee was then set up to consult the public on the plan.
Since then, the majority of written submissions received have been against the change, while oral submissions made at countrywide hearings favoured it.
Rapport says about half a million written submissions were received, with about 60% of them against land expropriation without compensation, while only 3,000 oral submissions were made at hearings, with the majority in favour.
Despite this, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said on Friday this was nevertheless an indication that the nation is in fact overwhelmingly in favour of constitutional change, and it should go ahead.
However, Professor Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas) at the University of the Western Cape, was quoted in Rapport as saying that the end result of the process may still not be “radical” enough for the EFF, which wants all private ownership of land in South Africa to end, and for the state to become the custodian of land.
Such wholesale nationalisation is something the ANC is unlikely to support, and so it may turn out that the constitution will not be changed ahead of next year’s elections, since the EFF may opt not to support the ANC’s version of the new constitution.
The move may therefore fall short of the two-thirds majority required.
The ANC appears set on changing the constitution merely to make it clearer under which circumstances expropriation with a compensation value of R0 may be allowed in the interests of land reform and reversing historical land dispossession during the colonial and apartheid eras.
The ANC would presumably never be in favour of expropriating land from any farmer simply on the basis that he or she happens to be white.
This approach may prove to not be “radical” enough for the EFF – meaning that whether the constitution is changed or not may ultimately hinge on the results of next year’s elections and which parties emerge with enough of a majority to change laws as they see fit, according to Prof Hall.