EFF quiet about how expropriation would include land and homes of black people - Cronin

Jeremy Cronin has entered the land debate. (Lisa Hnatowicz, File)
Jeremy Cronin has entered the land debate. (Lisa Hnatowicz, File)

Public Works Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin has slammed the EFF for its policy on land expropriation without compensation, specifically around the fact that black people would also lose their title deeds under the party's plan.

He also accused the party of speaking with forked tongue to white land owners by promising them "compensation via [the] back door".

"[The] EFF is proposing expropriation of all land without compensation – but what it is rather quiet about is that it would involve expropriating the land and homes of black people," Cronin said. 

He was speaking to News24 on the sidelines of the National Forum for Dialogue on Land, Heritage and Human Rights in Johannesburg, which discussed the emotionally charged land debate. 

Read: We can't wait for Parliament's go-ahead before expropriating land without compensation - Nkoana-Mashabane

The dialogue is expected to lay the base for the joint constitutional review committee that has until August to finalise whether the Constitution should be amended. 

The EFF wants the state to own all land and is explicit that section 25 of the Constitution must be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation. The section currently only allows for expropriation in the public interest subject to compensation that can be agreed to by affected parties or approved by a court of law.

ANC not for nationalisation

"In some utopia that might be a desirable direction to travel but we are dealing with a hugely complex situation and also with a state that lacks a lot of institutional capacity," Cronin told News24. 

He said his department, which is a large custodian of land and buildings, was already battling to keep up with what the state owned.  

"So can you imagine the confusion if, on a sunny day, with a stroke of a pen, all land was expropriated in South Africa?" Cronin added. 

There are differences between the EFF and ANC's stance, as the ruling party does not want to nationalise land, he added.

Cronin is part of a task team set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to clear the "confusion" that suggested the ANC and EFF had a similar stance on land expropriation without compensation, while trying to appease investors anxious about the uncertainty.

He accused the EFF of being hypocrites rattling white farmers with expropriation without compensation, but then quickly softening them with promises that their cattle pens and homes won't be taken away and that they would continue farming.

'Constitution not a hindrance to effective land reform'

Cronin claims the EFF later promised the farmers compensation for improvements they have made on the land. He said this equated to promising "compensation via [the] back door". 

"Anyone who knows anything about land, particularly agrarian land, is that it is not the ground that has value, it's the improvements that have been conducted. So when they say 'we will compensate you for improvements', what they are saying is that what is said in the Constitution is not a hindrance to effective land reform," he said. 

Cronin said the ANC is exploring new ways to allow for the possibility of land expropriation without changing the Constitution. 

He said that instead of amending section 25, which is part of the Bill of Rights, definitive circumstances for expropriation should be included in the Expropriation Bill that is back before Parliament.

It was returned to Parliament by former president Jacob Zuma after it was seen to have been rushed through the National Council of Provinces without proper public consultation, putting it at risk of a legal challenge.

The circumstances would include instances where land is abandoned, labour tenants have been living on land and working on it in the absence of the owner or where owners are using the land purely for speculation. 

"Yes, we need to accommodate what is now an official ANC resolution that there needs to be the possibility of expropriation without compensation, but that possibility does not require changing the Constitution – it can be done via a statute, via [a] legislative process invoking the limitation clause inside of the property clause itself, in referring to the broader limitations in the Bill of Rights," Cronin said. 

Earlier, ANC chairperson and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe clarified that land expropriation was not about "driving whites to the sea". 

"We should understand the fears of those who sit on the land when we talk about land expropriation without compensation. It is not a policy to drive white people to the sea, it is about fair distribution of land – give our people access to that land," Mantashe said. 

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