20/05/2018 10:00 SAST | Updated 20/05/2018 10:00 SAST

Cyril Ramaphosa: ANC Must Give Direction On Land Reform

“Land is about dignity, it's about identity, it is about security,” said the president at the ANC summit to discuss expropriation without compensation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC summit on land expropriation in Johannesburg on May 19 2018.
GULSHAN KHAN via Getty Images
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC summit on land expropriation in Johannesburg on May 19 2018.

The ANC must explore all options in order to bring about meaningful restitution, redistribution and tenure reform in South Africa. This is the task laid out by President Cyril Ramaphosa to party members as he opened its inaugural land summit on Saturday.

"To our people, indeed to all people, land is about dignity, it's about identity, it is about security," said the president.

The historical workshop, which took place in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, dealt with what Ramaphosa described as the "biggest political debate on any issue since 1994".

It was mostly attended by ANC national executive members and leaders from some of the party's leagues. The workshop's aim was to comb through the many differing views within the governing party on the land question, and to chart a way forward.

'Original sin'

Party members are divided on whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended, and whether all land should be expropriated and nationalised under state ownership.

Ramaphosa gave the workshop a brief history lesson, describing the process which led to the dispossession of land as the "original sin".

"We are meeting here today to fulfil an undertaking that the founders of our movement made over a century ago," he said.

He added that the party had fought for the wealth of the country to be shared and for the rights of all its people to be equally and universally respected.

In February, Parliament passed a motion originally brought by the EFF — but only after it had been amended by the ANC to "review" the relevant section of the Constitution, rather than scrapping it without investigation, as called for in the EFF's original motion — to examine how to expropriate land without compensation .

The constitutional review committee has been tasked with assessing whether there is indeed a need to amend the Constitution to allow the state to expropriate land without compensation, which several legal experts have said is not the case — claiming that the current Constitution does allow for the process, if government has the will to implement the relevant legislation. The committee is currently receiving public comments on the issue.

'Grave historical injustice'

Former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma also attended the event, with the former delivering an address on the diagnosis and assessment of progress made by the ANC government in dealing with land reform.

"By addressing the land question, we are engaged in an effort to undo a grave historical injustice," said Ramaphosa.

The ANC president described land as an economic resource, saying it had been historically used to only serve a narrow sector of society.

"From the days of colonial conquest, the South African economy has been designed to underperform," he said.

He added that the country's assets, which included the land, mineral and its human resources and enterprises, were owned and controlled in a way that did not allow for their full value to be used.

"For as long as ownership, control and management are concentrated in the hands of few — and serve the interests of a few — South Africa will not be able to realise the potential of its economic assets," said the president.

Ramaphosa warned that there would not be a single solution to the issue, urging the workshop to explore the many options and examples set by other countries in addressing their own land issues.

He said the land summit was the direct result of a decision adopted at the ANC's watershed December conference, which saw him succeed Zuma. Ramaphosa said the party took a decision that expropriation of land without compensation should be one of the key mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution.

"This workshop needs to provide direction on how we use this mechanism most effectively to advance land reform, promote agricultural production, reduce poverty, create employment and enhance food security," he said.