By Staff Reporter
South Africa parliament yesterday overwhelmingly passed the Land Expropriation Without Compensation bill following a split vote of 241 against 81 opposed to the new law.
However, SA’s predominantly white political parties led by Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane and the Freedom Front plus vehemently opposed the motion presented by the radical Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the ruling ANC for the country’s land to be expropriated without compensation.
During a heated debate on a motion proposing an amendment to Article 25 of the South African Constitution so that land is expropriated without compensation, moved by firebrand EFF leader, Julius Malema, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said it agreed with Malema’s motion in principle since it was going to redress the emotive land question.
The ANC pointed out that the people of South Africa had spoken through its 54th National Congress in December last year where one of the resolutions was that land should be expropriated without compensation to guarantee an equitable distribution of land.
They noted that contrary to the notion that land was stolen from the blacks, history shows that the colonial takeover of black people’s land in South Africa was a bloody and brutal affair in which many wars of resistance were fought.
Other parties that supported the motion, and even proposed for a prompt time-frame in which land would be expropriated without compensation so that the people whose lands were stolen from them during colonial and apartheid rule are given back what belongs to them, include the National Freedom Party, Pan-African Congress, AgangSA, and Inkhata Freedom Party of Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
However, the Democratic Alliance’s Thandeka Mbambama, quoting Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country book, said expropriation of land without compensation was not a solution and that it would negatively affect property rights in South Africa.
An emotive Mbambama, who received a rousing applause from all the other DA members of parliament when her debate was done, wondered why the ANC which had opposed a similar EFF motion on land expropriation in the not-so-distant past was now in agreement with the opposition party.
“You are just scared of being outflanked by the EFF,” charged Mbambama, who instead proposed that the government should just step up the issuance of titles on land among the people as was the case in the DA-led Western Cape.
Two other DA members of parliament also stood up and objected the EFF motion with one of them telling the ANC government not to tamper with privately-owned land but to expropriate the 17 million hectares it inherited from the apartheid regime.
“What is this obsession with private land?” he said as other DA members of parliament urged him on.
Another DA member of parliament John Steenhuisen said the ANC’s move to agree to Malema’s motion was a show of laziness and lack of innovation on how to address the land question.
A representative from the Freedom Front plus, who intermittently switched from English to Afrikaans, warned that there would be serious consequences that would not be in the best interest of the South African people if the law to expropriate land without compensation was passed.
Nonetheless, members of parliament from the predominantly black parties stood their ground and heralded the motion whilst telling the DA members of parliament to stop pontificating to the black people whose land was dispossessed from them by ‘their’ ancestors.
“What nerve. What arrogance,” a member of parliament from the Pan-African Congress said whilst evoking memories of its founder, Robert Sobhukwe. “It is a great way to remember Robert Sobhukwe.”
In his contribution to his motion, Malema wondered why the DA which has 60 per cent of the people’s vote was unable to do what his party, EFF, with only 6 per cent of the people’s vote was doing.
Malema said the motion to amend the Constitution so that land could be expropriated without compensation was not a partisan but a national matter.
He said instead of an elitist parliament deciding for the people on the land question, the issue should be further availed to the public so that they have an input on it.
The EFF motion was then taken to a vote after the DA called for a division, and ultimately 241 members of parliament voted in favour of the constitutional amendments that would allow for land to be expropriated without compensation while 83 members of parliament voted against it.
Reacting to the passing of the motion, AfriForum, a South African civil society organisation representing white interests, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Wednesday morning that the decision was racist and that it was similar to what had happened under Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Venezuela and to an extent North Korea.
AfriForum argued through its representative that there was a difference between restitution and redistribution of land.