By Pinky Khoabane
February 28, 2017 was one of those days where we had ask to ask ourselves, whose word in the African National Congress (ANC) we must believe. In the conflicting messages that have come to characterise the ANC, the ruling party’s parliamentarians this week, turned down a motion to amend Section 25 of the Constitution and expropriate land without compensation.
The motion was led by the EFF on the back of a statement made by President Jacob Zuma at the weekend where he reiterated his commitment to radical economic transformation and expropriation of land without compensation. Speaking at the launch of Operation Phakisa on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the president said: “The 2017 State of the Nation Address focused on the critical importance of radical economic transformation. Land reform is a central pillar of the radical economic transformation programme. Let me reiterate what I said in the SONA: true reconciliation will be impossible to achieve if the land question is not addressed. If we do not radically change the patterns of land ownership, control and management in South Africa we will be creating problems for ourselves in future”.
The President asked the crucial question: “How are we going to achieve all the goals mentioned in the State of the Nation Address and all the laws and policies that we are busy amending to enable faster land reform, including land expropriation without compensation as provided for in the Constitution?” Read the full speech here http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/speeches/address-president-jg-zuma-launch-operation-phakisa-agriculture%2C-land-reform-and-rural
His answer came by way of an EFF led motion in Parliament calling to amend the Constitution. It offered to give the ANC the 6% vote it won in the national elections which would, in addition to the ANCs 62%, provide the two-thirds majority required to change the Constitution. We know this was an opportunistic move by the EFF. It has openly declared its hatred for Zuma and has openly denounced him as a president. How could it therefore enter into a negotiation with the ANC with Zuma at its head? The EFF is also in bed with the Democratic Alliance (DA) at municipal level. It has vowed to give away its votes at the next national elections if it means unsitting the ANC. It therefore stands to reason that its motion was just a bluff.
It however managed to expose the ANC’s divisions and hypocrisy.
ANC MPs turned the EFF’s motion down – a decision that created a rage on social media Twitter and Facebook.
Tony Yengeni asked: Can an ANC MP slowly explain why African MPs failed to unite a common position on land expropriation without compensation?
@kimheller3 #LandDebate #Zuma has called for Amendment of Section 25 & expropriation of land without compensation. Why are MP’s not supporting this?
@_Phurah What happened today in parly was a sabotage of @PresidencyZA Zuma on his call of expropriation of land without compensation –
In defending their decision, ANC MPs said it wasn’t ANC policy to expropriate land without compensation. That may be so but the immediate question is why the president had raised such a suggestion and as publicly as he did?
The Constitution does not currently allow for land redistribution without compensation and stipulates that “no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property” and that compensation must reflect “an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected”.
While we all understand where the Constitution stands at the moment, the motion was to allow amendments.
In a statement from the ANC Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, who is seen among ANC faithful as anti-Zuma following his calls for the resignation of the National Executive Committee (NEC) issued a statement saying expropriation of land without compensation was not ANC policy. He said the EFF was misplaced and overlooked numerous programmes and reviews that were underway. “The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has already undertaken to do a precolonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation pattern. Once the audit has been completed, a single law will be developed to address the issue of land restitution and the necessary constitutional amendments will be undertaken to effect this process,” the statement said.
A day later the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) issued its statement attacking the decision by the party’s parliamentary caucus for opposing expropriation of land without compensation. It said it would seek an audience with the mother body for an explanation. “Land redistribution is an ANC program and must be implemented as such without fear or favour. Any delay by the ANC led government in implementing ANC resolutions will give grounds to demagoguery, opportunistic populist formations to throw rhetorics and portrays themselves as the champions of the poor and the working class. The funded mercenaries who are proudly bedfellows of our historical class enemies, will portray themselves as the solution to socio-economic challenges the country is facing whilst they are mere election footsoldiers of the neo-liberal political party that is advancing white supremacy,” the statement read.
There is no doubt that land distribution is an ANC policy, what is seemingly divisive within the ruling party is the pace at which this must be done. And you have to ask whose interests are being protected by those in the ANC who want a slow pace of land redistribution. By the time reviews of current laws are completed, if at all, the 2019 elections would have come and gone and the ANC will suffer greatly at the polls for having neglected to deal emphatically, with the question of land.