Ramaphosa’s land announcement may have been unconstitutional: legal expert

Earlier this week president Ramaphosa announced that the ANC would finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected.

The announcement is especially troubling for South Africa as it grapples with record unemployment, low growth, high inflation and declining foreign direct investment, says Peter Leon, partner at multinational law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

“The ANC’s decision appears to pre-empt the ongoing public participation processes led by the Constitutional Review Committee in Parliament,” he said.

“It also appears to conflict with the constitutional requirement that a Bill amending the Constitution can only be adopted if there is a meaningful process of public participation. By presenting the ANC’s decision as a fait accompli, the governing party is impermissibly pre-empting this process which in itself could lead to constitutional challenges.”

He added that the notion that expropriation of land without compensation will remedy inequality and advance economic development conflicts with the views expressed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this week.

“According to the IMF the government must address policy uncertainty if it wishes to address negative per capita growth, inequality and high levels of unemployment,” said Leon.

“Amending the Constitution to make explicit provision for expropriating land without compensation will do exactly the opposite.”

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Ramaphosa’s land announcement may have been unconstitutional: legal expert