With Parliament granting the ANC permission to change the constitution, we’re looking at what will happen with land expropriation next year.
It’s happening: The constitution will be changed to allow land expropriation without compensation to go ahead. It marks the end of a nine-month process, from when the policy first got the go-ahead to be explored.
The Joint Constitutional Review Committee (JCRC) ruled that section 25 can be altered on Thursday, setting us up for a summary of what will happen going into next year.
Politicians and our elected representatives spent a large portion of 2018 attending public land hearings, gauging what the people want. There were arguments, disagreements and even some serious threats. But at the end of it all, South Africa is advancing with a policy that could leave the country on a knife-edge.
Pros and cons of land expropriation
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ANC comrades have said the process will turn SA into a “Garden of Eden“, citing the promise that there will be more access to land for a wider range of people. He believes it will create jobs, alleviate poverty and – his favourite phrase – undo a historical injustice.
Then you’ve got the other camp: Opposition parties, conservative economists and South Africans with concerns. They fear an erosion of property rights and an economic disaster.
Truth be told, neither version of events is 100% true – we just need to find a middle-ground between reckless policy implementation and mourning Mzansi as “a second Zimbabwe”. So we’re looking ahead, here. What’s next for land expropriation, and what can we expect to see in 2019?
Land Expropriation – what will happen next?
Arguably, this was one of the biggest weeks in South Africa’s democratic history. The resolution to allow the constitution to be changed is a step in a bold new direction. Not only for the land issue but as a precedent: Could the constitution be changed for other reasons in the future?
The African National Congress, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the National Freedom Party all voted in favour of the report. The Democratic Alliance and the Congress of the People voted against the committee report. The movement was approved by a vote of 12-4.
Now we’re done with the JCRC, here’s where we go next: It’s up to Parliament to explain how the amendment will be drafted. A special ad hoc committee would have to decide on the wording, as well as the phrases and terms that should be omitted. Expect more public hearings to debate this process, too.
When does it go to Parliament?
However, time is a factor. The ANC may have got to a point where they can now show voters that land expropriation is very much happening, but party representative Vincent Smith has confirmed expropriation won’t begin until after the election – a contradiction, for both Smith and the ANC:
Furthermore, Parliament is due for its annual recess by the start of December, and won’t return until February 2019. The next stage of land expropriation will likely not kick into high gear until then.
The ANC are obviously very happy with the outcomes. Such a controversial, radical policy could have faced a much rougher ride than the bumpy rollercoaster it currently straddles.
The EFF also declared victory, as the motion to alter the constitution was one proposed by their leader, Julius Malema. They reacted to the decision by praising the “rigorous consultative process” that lead South Africa to this historic point.
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Those red berets were also in the mood to blow their own trumpets, claiming that they catalysed a “decisive generation” into decolonising the land. The party still raised one concern, though – and this is probably going to be the newest sticking point heading into next year:
Their statement demanded that expropriation must begin before the 2019 elections, echoing what was issued by the JCRC. When Parliament re-opens in February, this will be the biggest thorn in the ANC’s side.
Ultimately, the organisation left the chambers happy on Thursday. But if Malema and friends were the cats that got the cream, it was left to the DA and Cope to lick their wounds.
At a joint press conference – also featuring FF+ and ACDP – Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Thandeka Mbabama branded the decision a “complete farce”, blasting the “convenient coalition” of the ANC and EFF for undermining the public process.
“While the CRC’s public hearings were still underway, President Ramaphosa pre-empted the outcome of the process with his late-night announcement that expropriation without compensation would proceed regardless.”
“This had the effect of silencing those not yet heard by the committee. From the outset, the ANC has sought to undermine the work and processes of the Committee in an attempt to expedite their electioneering tactics.”
What properties will be expropriated first?
Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina has already gone public with his city’s land expropriation plans, identifying four plots of vacant land that will be willingly handed over by the landoweners. The mayor claims these people have “essentially relinquished their property rights” to make this happen.
You can actually land up for expropriation in Ekurhuleni are Farm Rietfontein 63-IR, PTN 40, Farm Rietfontein 63-IR, PTN 40, Extent Benoni 77-IR and Farm Driefontein 85-IR‚ PTN 406. What’s not so clear is the site of two alleged test cases in Limpopo. Akkerland Boedery, a game hunting farm, was allegedly given notice about the decision to expropriate in April. Only an interdict through the Land Claims Court stopped an eviction.
The Akkerland case goes back much further than this year, though. Negotiations began in earnest in 2013 and the owners were open to the idea of selling the farm they’d bought almost two decades ago.
What is the future of land expropriation?
Compromise, and lots of it. Willing landowners aren’t exactly a rarity, but the debate about exactly what pieces of land need to be shared and how much one must give up is going to happen thousands of times, with some very different characters in wildly-varying scenarios. Essentially, we need more Eddie Prinsloos.
But land expropriation without compensation may already be influencing other countries to take note. Rather than being labelled as another Zimbabwe, perhaps a country like Namibia – who have confirmed they will also begin expropriation proceedings next year – could be known as “the next South Africa”.
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