Agri leaders respond to recommendation to amend Constitution

Agri leaders respond to recommendation to amend Constitution

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee has adopted a resolution that Section 25 of the Constitution must be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation (EWC).

It was reported that the motion, which was brought by EFF MP Floyd Shivambu, was passed with 12 votes against four after the committee dismissed a different motion brought by DA MP Annelie Lotriet which recommended that the Constitution not be amended.

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Lotriet argued in her motion that the change was not necessary because the Constitution already made provision for land reform and expropriation.

Commercial agricultural representative body, Agri SA, was quick to issue a statement in response to the decision announced by the committee.

It said in the statement that the committee’s recommendation to make an amendment to the property clause in the Constitution was “an unacceptable outcome of an extended consultation process wherein Agri SA took a firm stance against expropriation without compensation”.

Agri SA president, Dan Kriek, said that Agri SA has made “extensive preparations in order to act effectively and will cast additional resources to this fight”.

According to Agri SA the proposed amendment was politically motivated and would cause large-scale damage to the South African economy.

Annelize Crosby, Agri SA’s head of policy for land said in the statement that Agri SA was continuously consulting with lawyers and that they considering litigation.

However, she said, the committee’s recommendation was only the first step in a “long and arduous process” to amend the Constitution and related legislation.

At a recent information session hosted by the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in Pretoria, the chamber’s head of legal intelligence, Theo Boshoff, presented a summary of what they believed would be the most likely outcome for EWC based on the numerous submissions made during public hearings earlier this year, as well as statements made by top government officials.

Boshoff said that during the provincial hearings, members of the public showed overwhelming support in favour of amending Section 25 of the Constitution.

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But, he said, the public generally treated these hearings as pro- and anti-land reform, and there was “little understanding of the technical nature of the proposal”.

However, during the national hearings that took place in Parliament, organisations who made submissions to the committee showed little support for amending the Constitution.

This is because many believe that the Constitution was not the problem causing the slow pace of land reform.

“This leaves the ruling party with a dilemma. As there is populist support for EWC, it will be difficult for the ANC to backtrack on its original proposal to amend the Constitution, but the amendment will likely be highly qualified to negate any impact,” said Boshoff.

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He said the amendment could thus include: additional factors for “just and equitable compensation”; a complex or simple clarification to say that in some cases “just and equitable” may mean that R0 compensation is payable for expropriated land; or it may be accompanied by a redraft of the Expropriation Bill, which will further empower the state to expropriate land without compensation.

Boshoff this was still highly speculative, but should there be a move towards a clear R0 compensation provision, this would perhaps apply to only unused land, abandoned buildings, land that was bought for speculation purposes, land owned by absentee landlords, and land holdings in excess of a certain land cap.