President Jacob Zuma has reiterated his call for the amendment of the Constitution to make provision for expropriation of land without compensation.
“You can’t have a Constitution that keeps people in poverty; then that Constitution is not good for the people,” Zuma said.
Zuma was addressing the National House of Traditional Leaders yesterday following a debate by the traditional leaders on the speech Zuma made on March 3 when he officially opened the House for the year.
During that occasion he called on “black parties” in Parliament to unite in pursuit of a two-thirds majority required to make changes to the Constitution to make provision for land expropriation without compensation.
These comments led to a fiery debate in the ANC, with some of the party’s leaders saying Zuma was being populist as land expropriation without compensation was not the party’s policy.
Yesterday, he expanded on the call saying land was one of the central pieces of reconciliation as it gives people dignity. “If you are in poverty you don’t have dignity,” said Zuma.
He added: “If we are free and have political powers, why can’t we deal with it and bring dignity to ourselves without fighting.
“We are saying let us amend the Constitution. That is not anything wrong, Constitutions are amended all the time to fix the wrongs. There is nothing irresponsible about that,” said Zuma.
He said the there are some people who seemed scared to talk about how land was taken. This dispossession, Zuma said, had led to poverty, which calls for fundamental changes in the structure of the economy in favour of the poor.
“From my point of view, it is correct,” said Zuma.
Zuma explained that he was not calling for Zimbabwe-style land grabs. “No one is saying let us go and grab land; we are saying let us do everything within the law, and if we don’t have the law, or the Constitution doesn’t agree, let’s correct the Constitution”.
Land, the high crime rate, and education were among the issues that traditional leaders spoke about, raising concerns in their inputs. They also complained about lack of benefits like medical aid for chiefs, pension and other benefits that are due to public servants and public office bearers.
They also suggested that Cabinet ministers answer to them about their portfolios in the same manner they answer to MPs in Parliament.
Zuma welcomed the chiefs’ input, saying it was the first time they had “seriously debated” his address. “We had inputs that were not necessarily lamentations but inputs which also said what can be done to address the issues,” he said.
He then promised that a gathering where ministers will be answering questions for themselves, would be easily organised.