BUSINESS AS USUAL: Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson says there is no need for the party to change the constitution.

THE African National Congress (ANC) policy conference recommended a "sober" approach to land redistribution, through replacing the failed willing-buyer, willing-seller method with expropriation in line with Section 25 of the constitution.

There were fears from opposition parties and agricultural groups that the ruling party would tamper with the property clause, and remove the right to compensation.

The land question was the subject of heated debate with the ANC Youth League and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA calling for expropriation without compensation, by amending the property clause.

AgriSA deputy executive director Johan Pienaar welcomed the ANC's approach to the constitution.

"We're very glad, it's a very positive development. The expropriation act has also been up for review for a long time," he said.

He said the position emerging from the conference was in line with the green paper on land reform and AgriSA would continue to engage with the government on the paper.

Earlier drafts of the ANC's now modified strategy and tactics document had included amending the property clause. However, the policy conference took decisions which, in the case of land in particular, appear to mirror policies already in play by the government.

Agriculture Minister and ANC national executive committee member Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Friday there was no need for the party to change the constitution as it already made room for expropriation for the "common good".

Section 25 states that no one may be deprived of property except in terms of the law of general application and no one may "permit arbitrary deprivation of property". The section provides for the expropriation of land "for a public purpose or in the public interest" and is "subject to compensation", the amount and timing of which should be agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.

The proposals around land would be refined and would only become policy if agreed upon at the national conference in December.

The willing-buyer, willing-seller approach would be replaced with the provisions of Section 25 to speed up land reform. However, the state would no longer fixate on targets.

"Targets are not the main objective, the main objective is land utilisation," Ms Joemat-Pettersson said. The target was to redistribute 30% of SA 's farm land by 2014.

The long-awaited land audit would also be fast tracked and completed by December this year, to assist the state to determine the extent of its ownership of land in the country. "The state will intervene to buy and allocate land," she said.

The ANC also disagreed "in principle" with foreign ownership of land but this "did not mean the expropriation of the land of foreigners". Foreigners may acquire "long leases" for South African land.

marriann@bdfm.co.za