President Cyril Ramaphosa
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The ANC has decided to change the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this decision at the end of the national executive committee's two-day lekgotla held in Irene, outside Pretoria.

Speaking in a late-night message on Tuesday‚ Ramaphosa said this was prompted by the nationwide hearings on the proposal‚ which have been going on for the last three weeks.

However‚ Ramaphosa also admitted that Section 25 as it currently stood did allow for "expropriation of land without compensation in the public interest".

Said Ramaphosa: “It has become patently clear that our people want the Constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation‚ as demonstrated in the public hearings.

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"There is also a growing body of opinion in our country that the Constitution‚ as it stands‚ does not impede expropriation of land without compensation. The ANC Lekgotla reaffirmed its position that a comprehensive land reform programme that enables equitable access to land will unlock economic growth by bringing more land in South Africa to full use and enable the productive participation of millions more South Africans in the economy‚" Ramaphosa said.

He added that the parliamentary constitutional amendment committee that was conducting the land hearings will now finalise the Section 25 amendment proposal and determine how this would be implemented.

Far-reaching consequences

The decision has far-reaching consequences for both the South African economy as well as its political space. It comes following yet another quarter in which the South African economy has shed jobs, with Statistics SA announcing an increase in the unemployment rate on Tuesday. The move is set to further dent investor sentiment and confidence by local business in the economy.

Ramaphosa’s own investment envoy, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, said in June that explaining SA’s ongoing land debate to investors had been tougher than expected.

The move is seen to reflect the majority perspective expressed at the ongoing hearings on land, taking place across the country, headed by parliament’s constitutional review committee.

The ANC took the decision on expropriation without compensation at its national elective conference at Nasrec in December, and partnered with the EFF in parliament in February to vote for a motion to this effect. The EFF wants all South African land to belong to the state, but the ANC’s stance on this remains unclear.

There have been dissenting views in the ANC and its alliance partners over whether the constitutional change is even necessary.

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