Land caused "fiery, tough and rowdy" debates in the plenary hall and it almost collapsed the conference on its final day, said the ANC economic transformation head, Enoch Godongwana.
The ANC national executive will amend the Constitution to achieve land reform without compensation. For that to happen, this move must not impact on agricultural production, food security and on other sectors of the economy, says the ANC.
The party took this tougher position after an earlier bid to contain expropriation within the constitutional provisions of willing-buyer-willing-seller failed.
"There's generally anger across the board about land," said the ANC's head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana. The cry in the ANC's big hall was that "the land belonged to us".
There are no timelines for the constitutional amendments, said Godongwana as the sustainability of the new provisions needed to be tested.
Land caused an additional tension in a fractious and ill-tempered ANC conference where the only good news was the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president.
The party's economic transformation committee heard arguments that government should use the courts more often instead changing expropriation laws. The courts have an appetite for land reform and will rise to the occasion of more muscular transformation, according to reports from the ANC economic transformation committee.
There is, in any event, new land-expropriation legislation in the pipeline and it will provide a fair and equitable way to achieve deeper land reform, said the committee. In 2016, Parliament approved the Land Expropriation Bill enabling the state to make compulsory purchases of land to redress racial disparities in land ownership.
Previously, the governing party had mooted expropriating land without compensation outside of the provisions allowed by the Constitution.
A land audit of commercial agricultural land released by AgriSA earlier this year has found that black South Africans and government own 26.7%, up from 14.9% in 1994 when the country became a democracy. South Africa has 93.5-million hectares of agricultural land, a figure slightly lower than that recorded in 1994.
Radical socioeconomic transformation
The ANC confirmed radical socioeconomic transformation as party policy. It began to give definition and meaning to the concept by including under its rubric the need to fix state-owned enterprises.
Radical socioeconomic transformation defined as changing the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy to include all South Africans, in particular black African women. It also includes changing "apartheid spatial patterns" where the pattern of suburb and township has not substantially changed.
On the mining charter, the ANC decided the deadlock between the Chamber of Mines and the Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenze Zwane must be broken.
Since the first day of the conference, delegates have sung against "monopoly". "Conference has ordered government to speed up the transformation of Pay-TV," said Jackson Mthembu, the ANC chair of the communications subcommittee. You know who controls subscriptions in our houses," in reference to MultiChoice's dominance of subscription television.
How land is owned in SA
67% - 'white' commercial agricultural land
15% - 'black' communal areas (mostly state-owned)
10% - other state land
8% - remainder, including urban areas
Source: Plaas Fact-sheet; University of the Western Cape