Agri SA is disappointed in the decision by the ad hoc committee tasked with the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to not allow for proper consultation and public participation. The committee discussed the draft Bill to amend the property clause on 3 December 2019. Agri SA requested that the publication of the amendment Bill be postponed to after the December festive period. The request was, however, disregarded.

Denying proper public participation

Agri SA deems it problematic that the committee has rejected a fair request to allow for proper public participation over such a controversial and potentially far-reaching step as amending an internationally recognised fundamental human right.

“Agri SA has maintained throughout that there is no need to amend the property clause. It will have a massive impact on the economy and on job creation that will eventually lead to food insecurity,”  said Willem de Chavonnes, chairman of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence for Land. “The problem is not section 25 of the Constitution and this has been confirmed in various court cases and most recently by the Constitutional Court in the Mwelase judgement.”

The Constitutional court held that: “It is not the Constitution, nor the courts, nor the laws of the country that are at fault. It is the institutional incapacity of the department to do what the statute and the Constitution require of it that lies at the heart of this colossal crisis.”

Impact on the economy

There has not been proper engagement with the impact that this amendment will have on South Africa’s international obligations, of international law and the possible economic impact in general. De Chavonnes has cautioned that South Africa is staring down a fiscal cliff.

“The economy is in a technical recession with spiralling unemployment levels and a dangerous debt GDP ratio and the currency reacting negatively to the news that the country’s economy has shrunk by 0,6% in the third quarter. We are concerned that international investment treaties will be in jeopardy where payment is not based on fair market value. The banking sector’s exposure is approximately R180 billion to the sector and lending is based on the underlying security of property.”

Agri SA and its affiliates are engaged in large-scale transformation projects and have shown their commitment to addressing the skewed land ownership pattern in South Africa. Agri SA is considering all available legal options to ensure the protection of property rights for all South Africans. – Press release, Agri SA