The ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday, dismissed accusations by opposition parties that the process which led to the adoption of a draft report by members of Parliament (MPs) in favour of changing the Constitution to explicitly provide for land expropriation without compensation was a sham.
The Constitutional Review Committee adopted recommendations that Section 25 of South Africa's founding document be amended following a vote which saw the ANC, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and National Freedom Party support the amendment, and the Democratic Alliance (DA), Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), Congress of the People (Cope) and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) oppose the move.
"We want to send a message to South Africans that we are going to address the original sin [land dispossession of the black majority] in a holistic way," said ANC MP Vincent Smith in a media briefing on Thursday afternoon.
"It's not a sham. It's not about electioneering. It's about listening to the voices of South Africans and by doing what we doing we actually meeting the expectations of South Africans."
Earlier, the DA and the other parties opposing amendments to the Constitution held a media briefing where it labelled the public participation process which saw hearings held across the country, hundreds of thousands of submissions by individuals and organisations, and representations by interested parties in Parliament, a sham.
DA MP Thandeka Mbabama said while land issue was a "delicate and sensitive" and "a social justice imperative that South Africans must rally around", it was being used a "political gimmick" by the ANC and EFF ahead of next year's general elections.
"The ANC and EFF has essentially pushed this report through this committee despite errors in procedure," said Mbabama.
She claimed the process was flawed, given that the majority of people who made written submissions were against a constitutional amendment.
"Hundreds of thousands of written submissions were arbitrarily disregarded and access to all submissions was not granted."
"Additionally, the public hearings were characterised by high levels of intimidation and bullying with incidents of racist attacks on speakers casting further doubt on the integrity of the process."
However, the co-chairs of the committee rejected any notions that the process that led to the vote was flawed or compromised.
"What guided Parliament was not the numbers of who said what, it was the quality of the debates and the quality of the debates shaped the product," said committee co-chairperson Stan Maila.
The EFF, the party which first introduced a motion in the National Assembly calling for expropriation of land without compensation this year, welcomed the adoption of the report and framed it as a vindication of its policies.
"Long has this country waited for a decisive generation, who will consolidate the decolonization process with regards to the land. With the arrival of the EFF, this was attained in less than five years," the party said in a statement.
The committee's report will now be tabled in the National Assembly for debate.