The past week has seen some of the most dramatic developments the country has experienced in its 22 years of democracy.

Wherever you found yourself – out shopping, at a restaurant or simply filling up at the garage – you were likely to hear the words ‘land expropriation without compensation’. The fear of those discussing the topic, especially those within the agricultural sector, was almost tangible. However, this need not be the case.

It is important to remember that we live in a country protected by one of the most advanced constitutions in the world; one that powers our collective will and rights as South Africans, regardless of race, colour or creed.

Perhaps I should explain why I felt the need to write this article …

Unpacking the issue

As a country, we have overcome some of the most difficult and trying times. And we have done so due to our ability to stand together as South Africans. This, unmistakably, is a fundamental aspect of being South African.

The past week has seen numerous emotive writings, political and otherwise, commenting on what ‘land expropriation without compensation’ means and the effect it is going to have. Such commentary is not what we need right now. Instead, what we require is an emotionally sober approach premised on the ability to understand what this means in order to respond practically, rationally and effectively.

Let’s unpack what has happened: Parliament adopted a motion to consider land expropriation without compensation – it did not approve the concept. It merely agreed to set up a committee which will review the issue and report back with recommendations on a way forward, whereafter Parliament will consider whether to reject or adopt the concept. The latter will require an amendment to the Constitution.

Participate and be heard

While we wait out this process, we must develop a mature and rational approach. Remember, as South Africa is a constitutional democracy, we as citizens have the right to participate in this process.

No legislation or policy can be adopted without public consultation. This is fundamental to our democracy, meaning that we will have the opportunity to state our case. And no process in Parliament, particularly pertaining to policy and legislation, can be undertaken without there having been a proper consultation process. In fact, several pieces of legislation have been found to be unconstitutional due to an ineffective consultation process.

What needs to be done now is for us to remain calm and let mature and sensible reasoning prevail, as nothing can be achieved through emotional and irrational reactions. We need the leaders in the agricultural sector to present a unified front and provide a way forward as a disjointed approach will only serve to worsen the situation.

We also need to trust our Constitution, our judiciary, and most of all our Constitutional Court, which has proven itself time and again to be the vanguard of our democracy and rights. And, finally, we need to become attuned to what this means, how it going to unfold, and what can and cannot be done. Based on this we must develop an appropriate response. – Elton Greeve