After four years of national torment the proposed amendment to speed up expropriation of land – and probably the entire concept of land reform – will come before the National Assembly on December 7. The ANC needs a two-thirds majority to get the amendment into the statute book, but there’s not a snowball’s hope in hell of that happening.
If the EFF continues its recalcitrant behaviour after the local elections and opposes everything ANC, there is no likelihood of the constitution being amended – at least not now. This is no indication of what might happen in future though. The can has simply been kicked down the road and next year’s ANC leadership elections will resurrect this age-old moral question like Lazarus of old.
I asked North West University’s professor Elmien du Plessis, who has been following developments since 2017, about the rather unedifying process and its consequences.
You have always maintained that it’s not necessary to amend the constitution to achieve land reform. Is that still your view?
I don’t think it is necessary to amend the constitution to make that which is implicit, explicit. I don’t even think it’s necessary to amend the constitution to get around the 1913 date, as the EFF wanted to do. Nothing prevents Parliament from making legislation like a “Reparations Act”, for example.
Which amendments will be debated in the National Assembly?
The Constitution 18th Amendment Bill, to amend section 25 of the constitution to make that which is implicit, explicit. The bill says that under certain circumstances when land is expropriated, compensation may be zero. It also makes provision for some land to be placed under custodianship of the state.