Instead, experts warn that this may well set off another series of protracted legal battles that could lead to more of the delays and frustration experienced during SA’s 24 years of democratic rule.
In February, the National Assembly resolved to assign the CRC to review Section 25 of the Constitution. While some sections of Section 25 give the state powers to expropriate certain categories of land without compensation for public interest, Section 25 (3) stipulates that such expropriation should be just and equitable.
The EFF and the ANC voted in support of a motion to re-examine and amend Section 25 (3) with a view to enabling the state to expropriate land without compensation.
Prof Ruth Hall of the Institute for Poverty, Land & Agrarian Studies [PLAAS] at the University of the Western Cape warns that the period between the committee’s report-back to the National Assembly and the election date will be crucial.
She believes it’s likely that Parliament will move rapidly to pass a new expropriation Bill, after which government may expropriate certain sections of land without compensation. This may, in turn, lead to test cases that could eventually result in litigation in the Constitutional Court.
A judgment by the country’s highest court on this matter could be what SA’s always needed to move forward because, argues Hall, it would show that the Constitution’s not impeding the state’s ability to expropriate land without compensation.
“The existing provisions of Section 25 already enable expropriation. [They’ve been like that] since 1996 and they don’t require that compensation should be market-related or it should be paid upfront in cash. They just state that the manner and timing of compensation should be just and equitable,” explains Hall.
Vasco Mabunda, Project Officer at Limpopo-based land rights and advocacy organisation Nkuzi Development Association, believes government should shoulder the blame for the failure of the land reform programme, which he argues has been consistently underfunded since its inception, especially post-2008.
The ANC, says Mabunda, lacks political will to address the land question. “Almost all its chief honchos, including the President, already own vast tracts of prime land and aren’t dependent on the land reform programme,” he points out.