Cape Town - The African National Congress would never support illegal land grabs, but must consider amending the Constitution to include land expropriation without compensation, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
"We must do everything within the law. We are not saying, let us go and take the land. We are saying, let us amend the Constitution," he told the National House of Traditional Leaders.
He was replying to the debate on his March 3 speech, in which he called for an audit of pre-colonial land ownership, before the ANC decided on a revised land reform policy.
"Constitutions are amended all the time, to fix the law. So there is nothing irresponsible about it.
"We are even saying, let us audit the land, and deal with a period we have not dealt with.
"You can't have a Constitution that has clauses that makes people remain in poverty. The Constitution must ensure that every South African does not live in poverty. That is the type of Constitution we want."
'Different' to Zimbabwe
Zuma disagreed with Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s statement on Thursday that SA risked going down the same path as Zimbabwe if it allowed expropriation without compensation.
Buthelezi earlier told the House that now was not the time to deviate from the Constitution on the land issue, as too much was at stake.
Zuma said Zimbabwe's land problem was different, as colonial land owners resisted change, which led to land grabs.
South Africans at the moment were agitated, and very violent, and needed to be united, he said.
Land was at the heart of issues like poverty, inequality and unemployment, he said.
The answer to these social ills was radical economic transformation, which he described as a fundamental change in how the economy was owned and controlled.
"When we fought for freedom, we wanted freedom, so we could enjoy all that God gave us: The land and its products, so to speak," he said.
"How can we have reconciliation when the land issue is not resolved?"
Zuma said restoring the dignity of poor South Africans would aid reconciliation.
On Tuesday, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said Zuma's stance on land reform was an "aspirational idea", but not official ANC policy.
The issue would be debated at the party's June conference, and then voted on at its December conference.
Until then, the ANC stood by the Constitution's current stance on land redistribution, which insists on fair and equitable compensation, he said.