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Input ANC MP, Vincent Smith, during the debate in the National Assembly on the report of the Constitutional Review Committee to amend Section 25 of the Constitution

4 December 2018

Madam Speaker;
Deputy President;
Comrades and Fellow South Africans;

It is common knowledge that from as far back as the 17th century colonial powers brutally expropriated the land and resources of the indigenous people of South Africa. It is also common knowledge that the British and the Boers reached an agreement known as the Vereeniging Treaty, to establish Boer Republics at the end of the South African war in 1902, which in essence reduced black people to foreigners in the country of their birth.

Soon thereafter, the Lagden Commission recommended a territorial segregation between black and white. This was followed by the establishment of the whites only Union of South Africa which made the Governor-General, the Supreme Chief of all native communities and dressed him with powers to appoint or dismiss any traditional African leader at his pleasure. It is this racially based ideological system that allowed the white minority government to pass the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts.

Fellow South Africans

The reading of the Hansard report on the occasion of the debate on the 1913 Land Bill, for me best illustrates the prevailing thinking of the minority government of the time. During that debate the Member of Parliament for Ficksburg said "They (the government) should tell him (the black man) as the Free State told him, that it was a white man's country, that he was not going to be allowed to buy land there, or to hire land there and that if he wants to be there he must be in service" in other words the black man must forever be a labourer.

In response to the situation that prevailed as we have summarised above, The Freedom Charter asserted that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. It promised that "The land shall be shared amongst those who work it". It further states that "Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger; The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers..."

This clause of the Charter is further clarified in the Strategy and Tactics document, adopted at the Morogoro Conference in 1969 where it states that "The bulk of the land in our country is in the hands of land barons, absentee landlords, big companies and state capitalist enterprises. The land must be taken away from exclusive European control and from these groupings, and divided among small farmers, peasants and the landless of all races who do not exploit the labour of others."

The same Morogoro document also states that "In our Country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation".

Speaker

At the opening of the ANC National Land Workshop held on 19 May 2018 President Ramaphosa remarked as follows "From its formation, the African National Congress has fought for the return of land to its rightful owners. It has fought for the wealth of the country to be shared, and for the rights of all its people to be shared equally and universally respected. We are meeting here to give effect to the demand that was articulated by our forebears that the land shall be shared amongst those who work it."

Fellow South Africans

The African National Congress believes that the land reform project is about healing the wounds of the past. It is about restoring our dignity, and it is also about reclaiming our identity and unlocking the economic resources of the country. We are convinced that without land redistribution we will never achieve a united South African Society, nor will we overcome the challenges of inequality.

It is our contention that unless we afford the previously marginalised the means to productively farm the land, and unless we change the apartheid spatial patterns in our towns and cities, we will not defeat the scourge of poverty and unemployment in our communities.

The African National Congress is convinced that if we are to maximise the economic value of the land, we must not only redistribute agricultural land, but we must also allocate land close to places of employment for residential purposes in the urban centres, and we must provide those living in precarious informal settlements with serviced sites and security of tenure.

It is important to emphasise that the Land reform project must not undermine economic investment, it must enhance agricultural productivity and it must not disrupt food security. We are also very clear, as the ANC, that the willing buyer willing seller or market driven concept cannot and must not be a mechanism for redistribution of land. It is this market driven concept that in the past was used as an instrument to resist or retard the land reform project. The newly established Office of the Valuer-General is a welcome development. It must be well capacitated to independently moderate all land reform valuations. The land bank, the land claims court and all other state machinery must be appropriately resourced and upskilled.

Expropriation of land without compensation alone is not enough and neither is it the panacea for the land problem in this country. It is our view that there is a need for a much wider policy overhaul to ensure a proactive needs-based acquisition of land.

With regard to this policy overhaul, we support the proposal of the NDP for district-based stakeholder forums that will play an important role in establishing the needs and identifying which land is available to meet those needs. We call for all laws of general application in the regard to be fast tracked.

Speaker and fellow South Africans,

In 1996 when the final constitution was adopted, the text of Section 25 was constructed with the forethought that it would facilitate rather than hinder land reform, including redistribution, restitution and tenure security. Twenty-two years after the certification of the final constitution, it is important for South Africans to reflect on the Constitutional framework for land reform in South Africa.

The ANC is of the view that the lack of clarity around the permissibility of expropriation of land without compensation has contributed to the slow pace of land reform.

We support expropriation of land without compensation or zero rand compensation in the public interest, as informed by our 54th National Conference resolution. Ours is a call for a mixed ownership model that includes individual ownership, state ownership and communal ownership.

Madam Speaker, the African National Congress makes the following firm proposal to this august house for your consideration, that Section 25 of the constitution be amended so as to make explicit and incontestable that which is implicit namely that expropriation of land without compensation be but one of the mechanisms of the land reform project.

Speaker

The land issue has always been central to the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa, and yet, certain sectors of the South African and international communities, continue to deliberately misrepresent the proposal for land expropriation without compensation. These sectors mischievously propagate that our stance is informed by an anti-white agenda. We must emphasise that no one in the ANC has ever suggested that Whites or anybody else be discriminated against in the resolution of the land question.

Fellow South Africans

Expropriation of land in the public interest is about redressing the effects of the original sin of arbitrary dispossession of the land.

Expropriation is about access to agricultural and residential land by all. The land reform project must be about the creation of a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and a prosperous nation.

The just and equitable redistribution and restitution of the land is about ensuring stability of our country.

Madam Speaker, Comrades and fellow South Africans, this land, is our land, and we believe that meaningful land reform that results in all of us, Black and White, being afforded equal access and ownership to the land, can no longer be postponed.

     
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