The land question featured prominently in President Cyril Ramaphosa‘s speech in the debate on the Presidency‘s budget vote, with the EFF calling for people to occupy unoccupied land, the ANC calling for caution and the DA for the entrenchment of property rights.
Ramaphosa said that the government condemned the illegal occupation of land but encouraged “South Africans to engage in the national debate around the proposal for the expropriation of land without compensation”.
“Land reform is an essential part of our economic growth strategy,” Ramaphosa told the House on Wednesday.
“The Freedom Charter says that the land shall be shared among those who work it.
Municipalities and state-owned entities needed to release unused land and serviced sites for housing “so that our people do not resort to self-help measures,” he continued.
“We condemn the illegal occupation of land.”
Ramaphosa‘s comments came after recent protests in Parkwood and Vrygrond in Cape Town, where residents belonging to various backyard dweller organisations have demanded land where they could build houses. They say they have been on the waiting list for decades.
However, the EFF was having none of it.
During his speech, EFF leader Julius Malema once again called for the occupation of land by the South African public, among other things.
Malema accused Ramaphosa of “bluffing about the land” and being “wishy-washy”, after initially showing support for expropriation without compensation.
“I make a call for our people to occupy unoccupied land!”
Malema said Ramaphosa demonstrated that he was not serious about land reform by appointing Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as the Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform.
“She knows nothing of the land!”
She pointed at him and started to stand up for a point of order.
After Malema‘s speech, Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli said it was problematic that he called for the occupation of land after he swore to uphold the Constitution.
After Malema took his seat, Tsenoli rebuked him, to which an angry Malema responded: “We don‘t care. Who are you to tell us what to do? South Africans occupy land. That‘s who we are.”
“Occupy the land! Occupy the land!” EFF MPs party chanted.
EFF chanting “Occupy land!” as deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli orders them to leave National Assembly. They leave without security services called in
— Jan Gerber ()
After five minutes of argument that descended into a shouting match, the EFF contingent called for Tsenoli to go and for Speaker Baleka Mbete to return.
Other EFF MPs joined in shouting “go” at Tsenoli.
“You must go! All of you!” Tsenoli thundered.
The deputy speaker asked the EFF to leave the National Assembly chamber. They left voluntarily after Tsenoli threatened to call in the security services.
When the time came for IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi to speak, he said: “We cannot afford the chaos we had here.”
He said his party would support an investigation into whether inciting people to do something illegal was allowed under the House‘s freedom of speech.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane accused the ANC of a “complete about-turn on amending the Constitution to enable land expropriation without compensation”.
“The ANC has said that it now plans to do so within the confines of the current constitutional framework. This is a very significant departure from the language the president has used over the last months,” he said.
Ramaphosa laughed when Maimane said he “welcomed this shift from the EFF‘s position” and shook his head when Maimane said they shifted to “the position the DA has consistently held on this issue, which is that property rights must be protected”.
Maimane called on the government to hand “thousands of hectares of state-owned farmland” back to the people and for an acceleration in the transfer of title deeds.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu spoke after Ramaphosa and dedicated his speech to his mother, a farm worker, who died in February.
“We must tackle the land question in a responsible manner.”
He commended Parliament for allowing everyone to have their views heard and said the Constitutional Review Committee had received more than 200 000 submissions.