OPINION: Nothing changes

The ANC has finally shown its true colours with its latest finagling over land expropriation.

The Draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, which lays out the proposed changes to Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation, has been gazetted for public comment.

The public comment period closes in just three days, on Friday January 31.

Last week Thursday, chair of the parliamentary ad-hoc committee on land expropriation, Mathole Motshekga, dropped a bombshell, when he said on national television that the ANC now wants the power to decide whether or not any compensation should be paid for expropriated land to rest in the hands of the executive, rather than in the hands of the courts.

“That’s what the ANC is saying, and we are saying that this is not an ANC process. Other political parties must make their input, and the people of South Africa as a whole, must make their input, so that Parliament can be guided by the will of the people of South Africa as a whole, and not by one political party,” says Mr Motshekga.

Which is the biggest load of disingenuous BS in living memory, because Mr Motshekga knows full well, that the ANC has a sufficiently large majority in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, to force through this anti-democratic last minute change, no matter what other parties, or the citizenry at large for that matter, might have to say about this matter.

But isn’t it rather sneaky to call for comment on a draft bill which makes the courts the final arbiter of expropriation without compensation decisions, then at the last minute switch horses in mid-stream, and want to place this power in the hands of the executive?

“We have the experience that the court processes are arduous and take time, and they require resources, but the executive is democratically elected by the people of South Africa. They (sic) represent the people of South Africa and they (sic) must govern,” says Mr Motshekga.

“We are not excluding the role of the courts, but we are not giving the courts the first opportunity to decide because that will take another 25 years, and the people of South Africa cannot wait another 25 years to get a resolution made to this matter.”

And there we have another load of disingenuous BS, because, as Mr Motshekga knows, the executive is not “democratically elected”. Rather, it is appointed from the ranks of members of the National Assembly by the president, but only after a good deal of horse trading with the mandarins at Luthuli House, directed as they are by the likes of the ANC national executive committee and the various components of the Tri-Partite Alliance.

With the ANC riven as it is by populist factionalism, not to mention the indivisibility of party and state, how the word “democracy” ends up in the same sentence beggars belief.

Mr Motshekga, loyal ANC cadre that he is, also ignores the reality that land restitution has failed, not because of delays in court processes, but because the ANC government has kicked this particular can down the road for a quarter century.

It has dithered endlessly over implementing the immensely practical and workable solution proposed in the National Development Plan, which it formally adopted as ANC policy in 2012.

It has consistently left the department tasked with the matter, Rural Development and Land Reform, underfunded and under-resourced, nor has it used the mechanism that already exists in Section 25 to pursue expropriation with zero compensation, provided it is in the public interest.

Asked who will keep the executive in check, Mr Motshekga said: “They are a democratically elected government, but the powers of the courts to hear aggrieved parties is an entrenched power in the Constitution, so any aggrieved person will have the right to go to the courts and say ‘I have been prejudiced by the decision of the executive’ and the courts will intervene.”

Which places us back where we started, with the process stalled while the courts deal with each matter brought before them.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.