This week the African National Congress failed to obtain the two-thirds majority it needed to make a change to South Africa’s constitution which would allow it to expropriate land for land reform without compensation.
The proposed bill had been met with alarm by the agricultural and business sectors, which have this week expressed their relief at the failure to pass the constitutional amendment.
The Western Cape government called the proposal “irrational” but has reiterated that there exists an a priori need for further land reform.
“The outcome of the debate on the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution in Parliament is positive for the future of South Africa and will contribute towards renewed confidence in the economy," said Jaco Minnaar, the president of Agri SA, a federation of agricultural organisations.
The Western Cape government has also pointed out that expropriation without compensation would, ironically, also threaten the property rights of previously disadvantaged groups that had since 1994 managed to obtain property.
“We have always believed that land distribution in South Africa is skewed and threatens to destabilise our society. However, it is not the existing policy that has failed to create meaningful land reform but rather a lack of political will, poor implementation corruption, and insufficient resources,” it said in a press release.
The ability to expropriate without compensation would not have speeded up the land reform process which is commonly believed to be held up by bureaucracy.
Agricultural economists Wandile Sihlobo and Johann Kirsten have posited that the creation of a dedicated land reform agency, a suggestion mooted by Pres Ramaphosa in his state of the nation address at the start of the year, is the only vehicle that can give vigour to a moribund process.
Political analysts believe that the ANC did not fully expect to pass the controversial amendment and had issued a statement on their position ahead of the outcome of the vote. "For the ANC, the debate is part of a continuum and not an event. Whether or not the ANC gets a two-thirds majority, land reform and in particular, the land redistribution programme and programmes that address the hunger for land and support, will continue through policy, programme and further draft legislation that will be brought to Parliament."