The issue of land expropriation without compensation has simmered to a point where Parliament is on a collision course with the ANC as a political party.
Having undertaken extensive consultations in various provinces on the question of the expropriation of land, Parliament has stumbled upon uncomfortable feedback that seems to be an emerging voice from the consultative process.
It is reported that the consultative process facilitated by Parliament's Joint Constitutional Review Committee indicate that the majority of participants did not favour the amendment of the Constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.
This feedback is in direct contrast to the ANC's decision that the party will amend the Constitution to pave the way for expropriation. This is the position that President Cyril Ramaphosa took during a late-night TV announcement a few weeks ago.
The ANC found it incumbent upon itself to repeat its commitment to amend the Constitution to expropriate land. Ramaphosa's announcement caused problems at Parliament in the sense that the ANC seems to be committed to get what it wants irrespective of the outcomes of the public participation processes facilitated by Parliament.
It will be difficult for Parliament to ignore the feedback from participants and recommend constitutional amendment. Having made its position clear that it opposes constitutional amendment and the idea of expropriation of land without compensation, the DA will raise issues with Parliament if the house yields to the ANC's position and ignore the feedback from the people.
Parliamentary consultation processes are not a referendum on how to tackle the land issue. The analysis that the majority of those who participated in the process do not favour constitutional amendment is also not conclusive proof that the general public does not favour an amendment.
However, the purpose of consultation is to solicit feedback and take into consideration all views upon which to formulate a recommendation. It might be difficult for Parliament to recommend that the Constitution be amended while ignoring that the majority are not in favour of it. It will have to explain why its recommendation deviates from what many would say is common sense.
Questions are already being asked as to whether the correct methodologies were utilised in arriving at the conclusion that the majority do not favour constitutional amendment. The issue should be not about methodologies; but to allow Parliament to arrive at recommendations that are justifiable in line with the spirit of public consultation.
The ANC was hasty in taking a position that the party will push ahead with constitutional amendment. This compromises Parliament's consultative work on land reform.
The state of play regarding the land issue means that the ANC will be watching Parliament carefully throughout as the country battles the land question. Thus, if the battle on how to deal with the land issue is now moving to Parliament – as it is the case – then the ANC will be very careful regarding who to deploy to Parliament after the 2019 elections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is reading the mood within the ANC and knows that he has to talk up the party's position on land by insisting each and every time he speaks that expropriation of land without compensation will take place. This means that he can no longer be counted upon to moderate the party's position on land.
Parliament is in a position where it has a potential to moderate the manner in which the land issue is approached and executed. The reality however is that Parliament would have to take a position against the ANC on this one. Unfortunately, our Parliament has no history of sustaining a position that was not favoured by the ANC as a political party.
It is also unthinkable to imagine that the ANC caucus could take an adverse position in relation to the party in the period towards the elections.
One way or another, there is about to be a realignment between the ANC and Parliament on the land issue. I don’t see the ANC changing its position.
- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.
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