Once seen as a proxy battle for different factions in the ANC, the land debate is now firmly on the agenda of the party, and it reportedly emerged from a summit on land this weekend in agreement on at least one issue – that of expropriation of land without compensation, according to Daily Maverick.
The ANC held its inaugural land summit in Boksburg over the weekend.
While the party discussed a range of issues and mechanisms which could be used to address the problems with the slow pace of land redress, it appears as if there is now no going back on whether or not the party, and government, will pursue a policy of land expropriation without compensation, even if the practicalities have not been ironed out.
News24 reported that the summit was held primarily in an attempt to find consensus on the issue within the party, which remains divided over whether the Constitution should be amended and whether all land should be nationalised.
Parliament's constitutional review committee is currently viewing thousands of public comments following a motion adopted by Parliament to review the constitution's property clause. The ANC adopted a resolution of land expropriation without compensation at its conference in December.
Ramaphosa reportedly established a task team which included academics and researchers to "clear existing confusion" on the party's position on land reform.
Opening the summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC needed to explore all the options available to bring about meaningful restitution, redistribution of land and tenure reform, according to News24.
Ramaphosa reportedly outlined the history of land dispossession in South Africa and explained why the issue needed urgent attention.
"To our people, indeed to all people. Land is about dignity, it's about identity, it is about security... We are meeting here today to fulfil an undertaking that the founders of our movement made over a century ago," he reportedly said.
According to Eyewitness News (EWN), Ramaphosa said there was no silver bullet when it came to land reform, and said a wide variety of mechanisms needed to be explored.
"When you allocate land close to urban centres for housing for the poor and when you provide our people with serviced sites and title deeds to their homes, you unlock the economic value of that land," he said.
The summit was also attended by former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma. Motlanthe gave a presentation based on his experience as leader of a high-level parliamentary delegation that investigated how government was implementing its own policies, according to News24. Motlanthe is reportedly also on a panel appointed by Ramaphosa to investigate the issue, along with Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, who also addressed the summit.
Motlanthe reportedly raised concerns about traditional leaders acting like "tin-pot dictators", and that the party should be wary of giving land to these leaders at the expense of people living in rural areas.
"The approach which confronts us as the ANC, must really be to understand that the ANC enjoys support from the people, not traditional leaders, some pledge their support to the ANC. [The] majority of them are acting as village tin-pot dictators to the people there in the villages... What we heard from public hearings, with exception from the Eastern Cape... the only traditional leaders who understand they are the representatives of the people are traditional leaders of the Eastern Cape. Others call themselves beng mabu [owners of the land]," Motlanthe reportedly said.
His remarks reportedly offended traditional leaders and some ANC leaders who approached Ramaphosa to complain about the matter, Daily Maverick reported.
At the end of the summit, Ramaphosa reportedly tried to calm them by saying, "Comrade Kgalema never meant to insult anyone, least of all any traditional leader. In fact, Comrade Kgalema is strong in saying we need to constitute recognising the traditional leaders and working with the traditional leaders."
During the summit, Ngcubaitobi reportedly said the Constitution had always allowed for land expropriation without compensation and said that until now, the government had actually been enforcing a policy that was in conflict with the Constitution.
According to eNCA, he said: "We go from the common law, we go to the constitutions and we go to the expropriation regime. We have been enforcing a willing seller, willing buyer, which is in conflict with the Constitution. The common law has always enabled the legislature to pass a law that would entitle us to expropriated land without compensation. The just and equitable model towards compensation has always enabled us to value the land sometimes at zero because if you look at history, state investment and all this can be done at zero. "
In the end, the party appeared to have emerged from the summit in agreement that land should be expropriated without compensation, even if many of the other issues remain unresolved, according to Daily Maverick.
This is not the end of the matter, however, as all proposals made at the summit will have to be ratified by the ANC's national executive committee before steps can be taken towards making them government policy, Daily Maverick reported.