South Africa: land reform not needing constitutional amendment

Land expropriation in South African can now proceed without the country’s constitution needing to be amended, member of the ruling African National Congress’ national executive committee Ronald Lamola stated on July 20.

The ANC leader added that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize will also convene a summit with municipal leaders to convey that land in their jurisdictions can be expropriated without requiring a constitutional amendment. 

Lamola’s comments will bring heightened pressure not merely to effect land reform but to seize privately-owned land without compensating the land owner’s for their losses. The ANC-led parliament recently concluded a series of public consultations held in all nine of South Africa’s provinces over how to proceed with land reform, and while the feedback obtained during the exercise is still being compiled, instances of privately-owned land being violently contested has already taken place in several provinces.

The pressures from within the ANC and from below – from the underemployed rural and peri-urban black South African voter – will result in the land reform agenda being executed not as a post-2019 elections policy, but as a demonstrable campaign tool prior to the elections intended to safeguard the return of the ANC to a parliamentary majority. The intensifying pace of land reform campaigning, effective action and political rhetoric is such that delaying any land reform resolve until after general elections in mid-2019 will be gravely detrimental to the ANC, and President Cyril Ramaphosa, aiming to defend its credibility from adverse political campaigning by the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).   

Advancing in land reform that is hostile to the sanctity of private property rights undermines confidence in South Africa as a reliable destination for foreign as well as internal investment. But the political imperatives facing the Ramaphosa administration and the African National Congress trump the economic cost the land reform agenda bears on South Africa.

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