ANC split on taking land without compensation – what is the party’s policy?

The ruling ANC appears to be split along familiar lines following president Jacob Zuma’s call for South Africa’s constitution to be changed so that land can be expropriated without compensation.

Speaking at an address to the National House of Traditional Leaders last week (3 March), Zuma said that the “hunger for land” in South Africa is real, and that the current constitutional processes around land redistribution is not enough.

He said that the constitution should be changed to allow for the government to take land without compensating current owners.

Zuma’s comments came just days after the ANC caucus in Parliament shot down a proposal from the Economic Freedom Fighters to do just that, with ANC chief whip, Jackson Mthembu saying that land redistribution without compensation is not ANC policy.

However, according to ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, taking land without compensation was reportedly adopted as party policy at the Manguang conference in 2012, pointing to contrasting views held by party officials.

Other ANC groups have also weighed in, with uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) leader, Des van Rooyen, siding with Zuma on the matter, saying the party should have supported the EFF’s motion.

The ANC Women’s League also expressed disappointment that the ANC did not vote with the EFF to push the motion.

Defending his choice to vote against the motion, Mthembu said that section 25 of the constitution, as it is, is more than enough to enable land redistribution, but the ANC government failed to take action. He said the constitution cannot be blamed for “the embarrassingly slow pace of land reform”.

What is the ANC’s official policy?

Despite Zuma’s supporters’ claims that land redistribution without compensation is ANC policy, the party itself has not officially endorsed that method until Zuma’s address last week.

According to records pulled by the Daily Maverick, the party’s Polokwane conference in 2007, it resolved to take land for public use, in line with the constitution (ie, with compensation):

“We should discard the market-driven land reform and immediately review the principle of willing-seller, willing-buyer so as to accelerate equitable distribution of land.

“The state and mandated entities must exercise their legal right to expropriate property in the public interest for public purpose. Compensation shall be awarded in accordance with the Constitution with special emphasis on equity, redress and social justice. All legislation pertaining to expropriation must be aligned with the Constitution.”

At its conference in 2012, the ANC resolved to adopt the terms used in current legislation reforms – specifically “just and equitable” compensation:

“Replace willing buyer willing seller with the ‘just and equitable’ principle in the Constitution immediately where the state is acquiring land for land reform purposes; expropriation without compensation on land acquired through unlawful means or used for illegal purposes having due regard to Section 25 of the Constitution; expedite the promulgation of the new Expropriation Act.”

Even in president Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address in February 2017 – amid the “radical transformation” rhetoric – no mention of land redistribution without compensation was made.

“The Constitution allows for the expropriation of land for a public purpose and in the public interest. This year, we shall begin to utilise the Expropriation of Land Act to pursue land reform and land redistribution, with greater speed and urgency, following the prescripts of our Constitution.”

While making amendments to the current legislation has been alluded to, as it stands, all official policy statements from the ANC point to land redistribution without compensation not (yet) being official party policy.

It is clear that whatever the ANC’s official stance, the matter of land redistribution without compensation is going to be a big topic at the party’s coming policy conference.

Read: Zuma wants to change the constitution to take land without compensation

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ANC split on taking land without compensation – what is the party’s policy?