POLITICS
24/03/2018 09:05 SAST | Updated 24/03/2018 11:54 SAST

The Cyril And Roelf Show Set For Second Act At Major Land Summit?

President Cyril Ramaphosa and erstwhile National Party minister Roelf Meyer helped pave the way for democracy two decades ago. Next on the agenda: land.

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Former ANC chief negotiator, Cyril Ramaphosa and former National Party and government chief negotiator Roelf Meyer in 2008.

The Cyril and Roelf Show could be set for a second act when a major summit about land reform and restitution is held in Johannesburg on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Roelf Meyer, who led the then National Party government's negotiating team with the ANC in the early 1990's, is one of the driving forces behind the summit, dubbed the National Forum for Change. It will bring together MPs, academics, legal minds, civil society and organised agriculture to discuss the controversial ANC policy of the expropriation of land without compensation.

The relationship between Ramaphosa and Meyer is widely credited as having provided crucial breakthroughs during the multiparty negotiations between 1991 and 1993.

According to the draft programme President Cyril Ramaphosa is slated to deliver the opening address. Meyer confirmed to HuffPost on Friday that he has been in contact with Ramaphosa's office to secure his attendance at the summit, but that it has not been finalised yet. Khusela Diko, Ramaphosa's spokesperson, said she is not aware of the president's mooted speech.

Ramaphosa has been pushing for a "Codesa-like" summit on land ever since his ascendancy to the presidency last month and is eager to defuse the emotions surrounding the issue, according to officials with direct knowledge of events.

The relationship between Ramaphosa and Meyer is widely credited as having provided crucial breakthroughs during the multiparty negotiations between 1991 and 1993. When negotiations broke down in 1992 Ramaphosa and Meyer kept communication channels between the ANC and then government open, which led to the Record of Understanding and eventually the first democratic elections in 1994.

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Roelf Meyer (National Party) and Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC) during the Codesa talks on November 21, 1993 in South Africa.

The summit, which will be held at the University of Pretoria's Gordon Institute of Business in Illovo, will include input by advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, the author of The Land Is Ours, former president Kgalema Motlanthe, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, former justices of the Constitutional Court Albie Sachs and Johann van der Westhuizen as well as well-known land reform academics Ruth Hall and Ben Cousins from the University of the Western Cape.

Cas Coovadia from the Banking Association of South Africa, as well as farmers Jay Naidoo, a former Cabinet minister, and Thomas van Zyl from ZZ2 farms, will also take part.

Ramaphosa has been eager to defuse the emotions surrounding the debate and has been consulting with various academics, politicians and representatives of commercial agriculture to find a way forward.

Motlanthe led parliament's investigation into the implementation of certain key acts which found that the scope the Constitution gives government and lawmakers to implement land reform and restitution has not been leveraged effectively. It echoed earlier sentiments by Moseneke, who is on record saying section 25 of the Constitution, the property clause now in the cross hairs of some in the ANC and the EFF, is not the problem when it comes to land reform.

He is well-respected by all, he was a key-player during our constitution-making process and is a progressive thinker.ANC MP Mathole Motshekga on Roelf Meyer.

The summit was conceived after discussions between Meyer, whose consultancy firm In Transformation had already been involved in bringing together so-called mega farmers and members of an ANC subcommittee, and Mathole Motshekga, a senior ANC MP, as well as Professor Quinton Johnson, from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

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During the constitution-making process in 1996: Cyril Ramaphosa, Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk and Roelf Meyer.

Ramaphosa has been consulting with various academics, politicians and representatives of commercial agriculture to find a way forward. He also realises what the potential damage to the economy could be if the process is not managed in a responsive manner.

According to Motshekga Meyer was ideally suited to organise a summit of this importance. "He is well-respected by all, he was a key-player during our constitution-making process and is a progressive thinker."

We need to look at options to close that gap. We need to answer the central question: how do we address poverty in a meaningful way?Roelf Meyer

Motshekga told HuffPost he had been in contact with both Meyer and Johnson, even before the ANC's elective conference at Nasrec in December last year, with a view to gather the leading lights in the land reform debate. "Parliament's resolution earlier (which mandated the constitutional review committee to look at section 25) gave us this opportunity. But it must be led by civil society, it must be civil society that engages with the issue. What comes out of this will feed directly into the parliamentary process."

He says there must be no fears about "land grabs" and that the consultation process will be rooted in the Constitution and law: "Nobody should feel that there are forces out there to destabilise the process. It will not be allowed."

Vincent Smith, co-chairperson of the constitutional review committee, says his committee will attend the summit and use it as an induction and orientation opportunity before they embark on a nationwide consultation process. "The summit won't lead to any resolution (taken by the committee) but it is an important step forward. We certainly welcome the initiative."

The committee's members include Motshekga, Julius Malema (EFF), Glynnis Breytenbach (DA), James Selfe (DA) and Steve Swart (ACDP).

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Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, author of The Land Is Ours, will also take part in the land summit on Tuesday.

Meyer, who convinced then president FW de Klerk's Cabinet to accept certain constitutional principles in the face of huge internal resistance, says the summit is a "good start" but that it cannot be a "once-off" event.

"Even though land is being portrayed is the main issue, I believe the debate is far wider than that and that we need to address the massive problem with inequality and poverty. We need to look at options to close that gap. We need to answer the central question: how do we address poverty in a meaningful way?"

As one of the architects of the Constitution Meyer has no qualms about amending democracy's founding document. "It is not cast in stone and has been changed many times in the last two decades. The Constitution needs to be functional. But this is certainly the most challenging debate we've had in that time."

The summit starts at 08:30 on Tuesday and concludes on Wednesday with report backs by commissions, recommendations and closing remarks by Lewis Nzimande, co-chairperson of the constitutional review committee, and Professor Nick Binedell from GIBS.