The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is deeply disappointed by the National Assembly’s failure to pass the Section 25, Constitutional Amendment Bill. Whilst an outright majority of the National Assembly voted in favour of the Bill’s adoption, it did not reach the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment.
COSATU applauds the pain-staking efforts of the African National Congress to draft a pragmatic and progressive Constitutional Amendment Bill that would have gone a long way to empower the state to expropriate land in support of land reform and address the legacies of apartheid and colonialism. Countless public hearings were held across the length and breadth of South Africa. The overwhelming majority of submissions received by Parliament were in favour of the Bill’s adoption. The failure to adopt this long-delayed and balanced Bill rests upon the shoulders of the opposition parties, in particular, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, who choose to place party needs above those of the country.
The dispossession of millions of African, Coloured, and Indian families remains one of South Africa’s most enduring wounds. Its legacies continue to scar most cities and towns. It condemns millions to live in overcrowded townships and informal areas. It deprives millions of adequate land to build homes, farm crops, and livestock and establish businesses. It means families are not able to hand down the property to their children and grandchildren. Until South Africa addresses this original sin, it will continue to struggle to become the non-racial nation that so many sacrificed so much for.
Whilst COSATU is dismayed by the National Assembly’s failure to pass this progressive Constitutional Amendment Bill, we believe that this is not the end of the road. The Expropriation Bill is currently before the National Assembly. It is due to be voted upon in 2022. It provides for the same powers and provisions enabling the government to expropriate land in support of land reform and addressing the legacies of apartheid and colonialism as in the Section 25 Constitutional Amendment Bill. If passed it can achieve the same progressive objectives.
COSATU believes that the Expropriation Bill is in line with the progressive principles of the Constitution and in particular its provisions that any compensation paid for property expropriated by the state must be just and equitable, as well as the Constitution’s obligations upon the state to utilise its powers to expropriate land as part of addressing the legacies of apartheid and colonialism.
COSATU looks forward to Parliament’s adoption of the Expropriation Bill in 2022 and it’s coming into effect. The Expropriation Bill will not resolve all of the many land challenges facing South Africa on its own, but it will be a powerful mechanism for the government to accelerate the land reform processes which have been far too timid to date.
Issued by COSATU.
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