ANC land expropriation plan shows deep division in party - Silke

Cape Town - The ANC's newly-announced plan to change the Constitution to make expropriation of land without compensation legal is an attempt to bridge deep political divisions within the ruling party, according to political economy analyst Daniel Silke.

Silke was commenting in a voice note to Fin24 on Wednesday evening after Enoch Godongwana, chair of the ANC’s economic transformation committee, briefed journalists that the party had resolved to implement land expropriation without compensation. 

Gondongwana, speaking at the end of the ANC's 54th national conference at Nasrec, also announced plans to nationalise the SA Reserve Bank.  

Silke said that issues surrounding both the ANC's plans for land expropriation and the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank pointed to an attempt to "manage the deep political divisions and polarisation that exist in the ANC right now".

He added that ANC members who were "more populist and ideologically concerned" appear to have gained the upper hand over those in the party worried about "the practicalities" of how nationalisation would be implemented.

"Ideology certainly is again trumping practicality when it comes to some of these suggestions, but it is ultimately exactly the kind of 'messiness' that we should be avoiding as a country."

Godongwana announced the plan late on Wednesday evening, while briefing the press about the outcomes of the ANC's economic commission.

He acknowledged that expropriation was a “contentious issue” and said that the resolution includes the condition that it be enforced sustainably. He did not provide a time frame for the plan's implementation.

“The final conclusion is that we agreed that the national executive committee will initiate some amendments in the Constitution’s section 25 to achieve expropriation without compensation," he said. 

Deep division 

Silke noted that a caveat in the announcement was that land expropriation would only be considered if it were sustainable, and if it does not affect food security and other economic sectors.

He said this provision may protect moderates within the ANC from going ahead with a policy, as expropriation would undermine the right to private property - which would in turn impact other economic sectors. 

"But it shows deep division, it shows this issue won’t go away. This is not good considering the positives that a Ramaphosa victory perhaps have brought to South Africa and to the global community looking at us. This kind of announcement really undermines the positives that Ramaphosa’s election has brought," he said. 

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