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Business bodies have mixed reactions to ANC's plan for land expropriation amendment

Aug 01 2018 19:25
Khulekani Magubane

Business advocacy groups had mixed reactions to the announcement by ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday evening that his party wanted to amend the Constitution to clarify the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can happen. 

While the Black Business Council (BBC) praised the move as showing "political will", Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) said Ramaphosa's remarks introduced policy uncertainty. 

Ramaphosa, speaking in his capacity as the head of the ruling party, made the announcement in a recorded video message at the conclusion of a two-day ANC lekgotla. 

DA leader Mmusi Maimane pulled no punches on Wednesday in reaction to the news, likening Ramaphosa’s remarks to playing Russian roulette with the South African economy.

However ANC MP Vincent Smith, co-chair of a constitutional committee investigating whether or not to amend section 25 of the Constitution - which deals with property, said Ramaphosa's remarks did not change the committee’s work.

BUSA said in a statement on Wednesday that it still planned to provide its own submissions at Parliament’s upcoming oral hearings on whether or not the Constitution needed to be amended. 

"Business is unclear how the announcement made by Cyril Ramaphosa [on Tuesday] night in his capacity as ANC president will affect the process undertaken by the [Constitutional Review Committee].

This potentially introduces another element of policy uncertainty, as there are no modalities currently on the table about a framework of how land expropriation without compensation will be implemented,” the statement said.

BUSA said its written submission on the matter had relied on the findings and recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Assessment of Key Legislation and Acceleration of Fundamental Change, which was headed by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

“[This] panel’s core findings and observations were that the requirement to pay compensation is not the biggest stumbling block to land reform. It also noted there is inadequate differentiation of approaches between pro-poor policies and the development of emerging commercial farmers, and that there is poor implementation of existing policies,” the statement said.

BUSA said it acknowledged the urgent need to address the persistent effects of apartheid-era land dispossession and recognises the inextricable link between land and the restoration dignity.

In a statement on Wednesday the Black Business Council welcomed the ANC's decision, saying it had long called for such action to remove any ambiquity and doubt regarding the ANC’s commitment to economic transformation and inclusivity.

BBC CEO Kganki Matabane said: “We applaud the ANC for showing political will in speeding up the implementation of the Radical Socio-Economic Transformation as the current situation where the majority of the citizens of South Africa are not playing a meaningful role in the mainstream economy of the country is unsustainable and pose a risk to the sustainability of our hard-fought democracy”.

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