Agri SA, the country’s largest federation of agricultural unions, strongly opposes proposed legislation that would scale down the courts’ role in expropriation disputes as per Section 25 of the Constitution.
This, as the ad hoc committee currently reviewing section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation asked Parliament for an extra 30 days to finish its work.
The committee says this is because the EFF and the ANC have not managed to find each other on the proposed form of the amendment. Subsequently, a number of agricultural organisations have come out in full force, warning against some of the recommendations made by different political parties.
The EFF proposes that the entire sub-section 3, which makes provision for compensation for expropriation, be removed from the Constitution.
Furthermore, the ANC had suddenly and unexpectedly indicated that they would support an amendment to the wording of section 25(5). This stipulates that the state must introduce reasonable legislative and other measures to promote state custodianship of land.
“The EFF has long promoted state custodianship over all natural resources. The EFF is also in favour of scrapping the 1913 date for restitution claims in section 25(7),” says Agri SA. “The ad hoc committee decided to ask Parliament for a further 30 days to complete their work, which would be the third postponement of the deadline.”
Further public consultation
According to Agri SA, Parliament’s legal advisors indicated that the new amendments “probably fall outside the committee’s mandate and proposed that the committee also request Parliament for an extension of their mandate and to allow for further public consultation on the new clauses”.
Some members, however, opined that this was not necessary and that all the proposed amendments fall within the committee’s mandate to state explicitly what was presently implied in the Constitution.
Agri SA has monitored the ad hoc committee meetings throughout.
Willem de Chavonnes Vrugt, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Land, described the latest developments as “extremely concerning”.
He says, “Agri SA is strongly opposed to the scaling down of the courts’ role in expropriation disputes, and even more so when it comes to expropriation without compensation. The proposal regarding state custodianship is absolutely frightening. It will send a shock wave through the agricultural sector.”
Agri SA is in the process of seeking legal advice on the latest proposals.
“Custodianship of land will deprive all private landowners of their property rights without receiving compensation, giving control over all private land to the state. This is a recipe for an economic and humanitarian disaster, and an invitation for large-scale corruption,” says De Chavonnes Vrugt.
He added that the state’s track record in terms of management of land was extremely poor.
“Agri SA will oppose these proposals with everything in its power,” said De Chavonnes Vrugt. However, Agri SA remains committed to sustainable land reform and the extension of full ownership to new farmers.”
Private land ownership
Henry Geldenhuys, the president of TLU SA, says that the description is kept vague so that government can expropriate “anything in private ownership without compensation”.
“The EFF is very vocal about their socialist agenda, and these suggestions fit in 100%. The EFF had made it very clear that they will not under any circumstances give a step back on these suggestions.
“It is thus crystal clear that the ANC’s about-turn after bilateral discussions with the EFF is their attempt at winning support before the coming election,” he says.
He believes the ad hoc committee will ask the parliament to extend the deadline to amend Section 25 by 30 days since they have not completed their task.
“The ANC and EFF will probably use the extra time to decide who will expropriate which properties and who will benefit from it,” says Geldenhuys.
“The sudden announcement by the ANC to amend the entire Section 25 is certainly not to serve the purpose of ‘participatory democracy’ as the chairperson described it. It is important to listen to ‘the people of South Africa’. But it is also important to be realistic and admit that the economy won’t carry these suggestions.”