ANC vows to stop farm evictions
Farm evictions would soon be a thing of the past. That is if the governing ANC delivers on its promise to introduce new measures that would protect vulnerable farmworkers while parliament is still deciding on land expropriation without compensation.
ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Ronald Lamola said yesterday that one of key recommendations of the party's land summit at the weekend was to prevent the continued eviction of farm dwellers by landowners.
The summit recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa appoints a panel to stop farm evictions. "The president must immediately [appoint] a panel to stop farm evictions. All departments must work together to ensure that farm evictions come to an end," Lamola said.
He said the government can also use the constitution to protect farmworkers by expropriating land on their behalf.
"We believe section 25 does not stop government from expropriating land where farm dwellers are residing and give it immediately to farm dwellers. No production will be affected," he said.
Lamola said there was already a case in the Supreme Court of Appeal where 22 000 farmworkers are fighting for a land. This, he said, could be used as a test case.
"Structures across the country must deal with the immediate cessation of evictions of farm dwellers. They are being evicted on a day-to-day basis. They are the most vulnerable, they don't have means to fight for themselves."
Many farmworkers have been booted out of farms in provinces such as Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Western Cape by farms owners. Some would have lived all their lives at the farms and have their loved ones buried there.
The ANC's renewed focus on farm dwellers comes amidst worries within the party that its failure to implement its own policies has made the EFF become the leader on issues of land redistribution.
"Already, the EFF is seen as leading the issues affecting the people. We are behind but we have policies. Now we cannot go out there in 2019 seeking votes when we do not protect farmworkers and not return land to the people. It has to happen," said an ANC NEC member who asked not to be named.
The summit called on government to press ahead with the policy of expropriating land without compensation as it believed that the constitution's section 25, which deals with property ownership, does not prohibit this.
It, however, said the party should still push for the amendment of section 25 (2) (b) to make it clear that expropriation without compensation can be done for "public purpose and interest".
Lamola said the party would also encourage government to have the interpretation of that section of the constitution tested in court. "The debate has been that it has not been tested. We are saying let's put the section 25 into a test through various mechanisms including the issues of farm dwellers," Lamola said.
He said the ANC also wants parliament to pass the Expropriation Bill which would stipulate as to under what circumstances can land be expropriated.
"The discussion in the workshop was that after that has been put in place, we must look into the possibility of the president taking the bill to Constitutional Court to test its constitutionality.
"The constitutionality of the Expropriation Bill will cut the red tape, a lot of process and it will give clarity," he said.
He appealed to national departments, provincial government and local municipalities that have got expropriation powers to proceed with expropriation of land without compensation.
"If there are challenges, they must not be scared to go to court to clarify the principle. We are calling on government to act and proceed."
ANC head of economic transformation sub-committee, Enoch Godongwana, said the party would like to engage the private sector in an attempt to make the transition as less painful as possible.
"For instance, if the private sector, which has vast tracks of land, were to say 'we are donating this land' ... that would be fine. We will make that process as less painful as possible," said Godongwana.
Parliament's constitutional review committee has already started the process of public consultation on the amendment of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.
The committee has been given until August 30 to report back to the National Assembly.