CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – A South African parliamentary team has recommended a constitutional amendment to make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation in the public interest.
The Constitutional Review Committee said amending section 25 would make it explicitly clear that such expropriation could be carried out to accelerate land reform.
“South Africans have spoken, loud and clear, and we listened to their cry,” Lewis Nzimande, co-chairman of the review team, said in a statement on Thursday.
“This has truly been a massive project. We have seen people queuing for long periods, just to make sure they have a say on the matter.”
The review team’s recommendation will now go to the national assembly. It is not clear when a vote will take place.
More than two decades after apartheid’s demise, most private land remains in the hands of the country’s white minority, making it a vivid symbol of wider disparities.
Parliament set the ball rolling in February to hasten the transfer to black ownership by backing a motion calling for the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation, and set up the review team to canvass public opinion.
The committee carried out public hearings, received written submissions and heard presentations in parliament on the proposed review of the constitution.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress has made the acceleration of land redistribution a key issue ahead of 2019 elections, unnerving investors despite pledges to do so in a way that does not threaten food security or growth.
AgriSA, an association of agricultural associations, criticised the committee’s recommendation, saying the amendment of section 25 would be diametrically opposed to the protection of property rights and would gravely harm the economy.
Dan Kriek, Agri SA president, said his organisation would challenge the recommendation, which it termed “reckless and populist”, through its legal team.
“The proposed amendment is politically motivated and will cause large-scale damage to the South African economy,” he said.
Speaking in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Ramaphosa told the European Parliament that South Africa would enact land reforms in line with its constitution and with respect for the human rights of all its people.