Land: ANC 'determined' to press on after court win, but AfriForum's fight 'far from over'

Co-chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee Lewis Nzimande. (Jan Gerber/News24)
Co-chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee Lewis Nzimande. (Jan Gerber/News24)

"I think it is a victory for South Africans that we can continue with land reform and uniting our country," ANC MP Vincent Smith said on the steps of the Western Cape High Court on Friday.

He was speaking after the court dismissed AfriForum's urgent application to have MPs interdicted from moving to adopt Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee report on the amendment on the Constitution to make way for land expropriation without compensation.

The report was adopted on November, 15, and among other things, recommended that Section 25 of the Constitution be amended to allow land expropriation without compensation.

"We are now more determined than ever to ensure that this process reaches its logical conclusion," Smith said.

READ: AfriForum 'justifying violent dispossession' with 'embarrassing' court bid – Ngcukaitobi for Parliament

AfriForum, however, says the fight is far from over, and that it is only getting started. 

After arguments were heard on Thursday, judges Vincent Saldanha and Nape Dolamo delivered their judgement on Friday morning.

The dismissal only applies to the first part of AfriForum's case - the argument that the matter is urgent.

The second part of its case - to have the report reviewed and set aside – is to be heard at a later date.

The gist of AfriForum's case is that the public participation process is flawed because about 176 000 of the hundreds of thousands of written submissions that the committee received were deemed duplications and were not considered in the report.

Many of AfriForum's members sent through the same submission.

The judgment means that the report can be debated and adopted on Tuesday in both Houses of Parliament.

Also addressing the media on the steps of the High Court, committee co-chairperson Lewis Nzimande said he welcomed the court's order.

"We have always been of the view [AfriForum's application] was not urgent. There is no urgency to the matter because all the time we have done all the work transparently. We've consulted sufficient enough," Nzimande said.

He said AfriForum was part of all the proceedings the committee had with the public.

UDM MP Mncedisi Filtane said: "AfriForum was just playing marbles with South Africans who are landless."

Also, in a statement, Parliament said it "consistently stressed AfriForum's application was ill-advised, abusive to the court processes, premature and intended to gag both Parliament and thousands of South Africans who expressed their views through the public participation process".

"The order of the Court is an affirmation of the constitutional right and powers of Parliament to independently determine and conduct its business without undue interference," Parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said in a statement.

He said the CRC's process was not a referendum and, therefore, the quality and diversity of views submitted – and not the numbers - was important.

The office of ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the party felt vindicated by the judgment.

"The ANC has always stated that this application was nothing but a desperate attempt to delay Parliament from responding to the quest of our people for the expropriation of land in the public interest," reads the statement.

"In fact, the true intention of this application was to justify the violent dispossession of land. We condemn Afriforum's use of its position of wealth and privilege to abuse the judicial system with a view to undermine the parliamentary process, render the voices of South Africans meaningless and to perpetuate their racially divisive ends."

READ: Court dismisses AfriForum's urgent bid to interdict Parliament's land expropriation report

AfriForum said in a statement it was "not the end of the organisation's battle in protecting property rights, but merely the beginning of a long and lengthy battle".

The organisation's legal team will continue, among other things, to battle in court against the "defective process that the parliamentary committee followed by ignoring written objections against expropriation without compensation". 

AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said his organisation was determined to help see to it that South Africa did not destroy property rights by means of expropriation without compensation and to help prevent South Africa from taking the same destructive path that Zimbabwe and Venezuela took. 

"AfriForum therefore undertakes to use every possible mechanism at its disposal to, in the interest of everyone in the country, fight to the bitter end against the undermining of property rights," said Kriel.

Kriel pointed out that the South African Constitution, and the protection of property rights contained therein, was the result of a negotiated settlement that was reached in 1994 between various parties with the ANC and the then National Party government as leading roleplayers. 

"Should the ANC-ruled Parliament now continue to amend the Constitution to make expropriation without compensation possible, it will be a clear indication that the ANC is in blatant breach of the 1994 agreement. It will cause a serious trust crisis between minorities and the ANC government," Kriel said.

Kriel said AfriForum would continue to increase its efforts to help generate international pressure against land expropriation without compensation in South Africa.

The report of the CRC is scheduled for consideration and adoption by both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday. If both Houses adopt the report, Parliament will then initiate a process to word the actual amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution.

This means a committee will be appointed to draft the amendments and will include another public participation process.

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