Land row rages on
Zuma rebuts the ANC’s policy by calling directly for expropriation, but MPs remain divided
The ANC is in a quandary after President Jacob Zuma voiced his support of the growing call for land to be expropriated without compensation – without securing the party’s mandate to change existing policy. This follows a motion in Parliament this week, brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to speed up land reform by amending the Constitution’s property clause. The motion was debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday. ANC MPs argued that there was no need to change the Constitution, but rather to properly implement what section 25 – which includes the various regulations established for land reform – enabled government to do.
But the ANC caucus’ rejection of this motion has solicited criticism from within party ranks.
“The party’s objection to this week’s motion in Parliament, brought by the EFF, left many of us ANC members confused and hurt ... We felt that by rejecting this motion to amend the Constitution’s property clause, the party had squandered an opportunity,” said Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration (see Voices, page 1).
But ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu defended his caucus’ rejection of the EFF’s offer to use its 6% of the national vote to amend section 25 and make provision for land expropriation without compensation.
Mthembu said the MPs had “no mandate from the ANC or any of its structures or conferences” to change the Constitution.
“We stuck to the ANC policy. If it [a constitutional amendment] arises at a policy or a national conference, and the conference says ‘Change the Constitution’, we will implement that. “But the ANC has never mandated us to do that,” he said. “Even if you wake me in the middle of the night half-drunk or halfdead, I will tell you the policy of the ANC on land does not say that,” said Mthembu.
ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba told City Press that the league was “not at all happy,” with the stance taken in Parliament. “We would have liked for the parliamentary caucus to have a position that was agreed upon by all and gone through all the structures. We would have liked a position that gave hope to South Africans, one that said: ‘We know you are tired, and so you should be, as it has been 23 years.’
“They were debating [in the House] as if it was business as usual ... It would have been better to abstain rather than do what they did,” she added.
On Friday, three days after the debate on land, Zuma spoke at the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament. Addressing the leaders, he threw the parliamentary caucus under the bus, saying the ANC needed to “unite with other black parties” in pursuit of a two-thirds majority that would enable it to change the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. But Mthembu refused to comment on Zuma’s speech, referring questions to the ANC’s national spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa. Mthembu emphasised that comments he made this week about land reform – namely, that “government has not optimally implemented the provisions of section 25” – were directed solely at the EFF. Debating the subject of section 25 on behalf of the ANC, Deputy Minister of Public Works Jeremy Cronin said: “The democratic state needs expropriating powers. It needs to be able to drive rural and land reform, but also mixed income, medium density human settlements in well-located areas ... All of this is captured admirably in the Constitution, and especially within section 25.” Mthembu reiterated: “We have not dealt with the land question appropriately. We must not say the stumbling block on land reform is the Constitution when we have not even tested section 25. We have not tested the notion of taking land in the public interest and paying minimally for it.” Like Cronin, he regards section 25 as more of an enabler for land reform than a barrier. Meanwhile, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has called for a referendum on the land question. Speaking to City Press this week, provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said they would take their call to the next sitting of the party’s national executive committee (NEC). He said the province’s working committee resolved last month that provincial chair Sihle Zikalala would lead the charge on land in all public platforms. “The referendum must be facilitated by government in a similar format to that of Brexit [last year’s UK referendum, in which British citizens voted to leave the EU]. The following questions should be posed to South Africans: ‘Do you support expropriation without compensation? And should the Constitution be amended?’” Ntuli said. He said the party’s NEC should have a proper position on land, rather than be “caught off guard” by the EFF. While Mthembu was diplomatic and refused to directly engage Zuma’s comments, another senior ANC MP, who did not want to be named, accused the president of engaging in populist tactics. “We had a lekgotla earlier this year; the subject should have come up there. You have seen NEC decisions. None has said we must change the Constitution or that the president should have announced this in his state of the nation address,” said the MP. The MP expressed concern that Zuma went to caucus two days after the debate and still said nothing on the matter. “I do not know what was expected from caucus as the caucus is not a decisionmaking structure.” Two sources confirmed Zuma’s attendance, adding that he said nothing to the caucus about land and the matter was not discussed.
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