The Constitution will have to be changed to allow for the restitution of land without compensation, President Jacob Zuma said Friday in his annual address to the National House of Traditional Leaders.

Such a move would require the unity of black parties in Parliament, the president said, as amending the Constitution would require a two-thirds majority.

Zuma insisted the government and the ruling ANC would want to ensure that land restitution was an orderly process and would not support “chaos and illegal land grabs”.

The process of land reform would have to be undertaken in terms of the Constitution and the laws of the land.

“We must use our majority to correct the wrongs within the law and within the Constitution. The time has come to unite and speak with one voice,” Zuma said.

An audit of pre-colonial land ownership, use and occupation patterns would be undertaken and then a single law of land restitution without compensation should be developed.

The necessary constitutional amendments would be made to address this process.

The government must make it easier for us to open our own banks … so we can have money circulating amongst ourselves and grow ourselves and be in control

Zuma said the government was also looking at a redesign of the Land Claims Commission as a Chapter Nine institution so that it could have the necessary powers. This too would require a constitutional amendment.

“All of this will require unity and common purpose,” Zuma stressed.

The current land redistribution and restitution programme was flawed, he noted. The willing buyer, willing seller approach did not work as it made the state a price-taker in an unfair process.

There were also too many laws dealing with land reform, which caused confusion and delayed the process.

“The fact remains that land hunger is real,” Zuma said.

This was not surprising as it was at the fundamental question at the centre of the liberation struggle.

The critical element of the economy was the land, and lack of ownership meant that economic power was not in the hands of the majority.

Zuma also emphasised that as part of the process of radical economic transformation, the government had to make it easier for “us to open our own banks … so we can have money circulating amongst ourselves and grow ourselves and be in control”.

The time for talking, writing and analysing about radical economic transformation was over and it was now time for concrete action, the president said.

The year 2017 would be the year of implementation and decisive action to effect socioeconomic transformation. “It is time for action.”

Progress reports

He said he expected to get regular progress reports from members of his Cabinet on what they were doing to achieve socioeconomic transformation and increase the participation of black people, and in particular Africans, in the economy.

Zuma also addressed the question of crime in residential areas. He was working with the security cluster of ministers to address this, and if a strengthening of laws was required this must be done.

On the attacks on foreign nationals, Zuma said the government had been asked to bolster its immigration controls.

Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini and President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

The president expressed confidence in Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to ensure that the payment of social grants to beneficiaries on April 1 too place. Cosatu has called for Dlamini to resign or be fired.

On the drought in the Western Cape, Zuma said the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation would be tightening water regulations in municipalities across the province.

The agriculture sector had been informed of 10% additional restrictions on water to curb excessive water use. The restrictions would remain in place until the dams filled up to at least 85% of their capacity.

Water restrictions in place had not resulted in serious savings, Zuma said.

The national government would support the province in these efforts, he said.