Former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, paying tribute to Dr Zola Skweyiya at his memorial service in Tshwane today, said Section 25 of the Constitution – which deals with property rights – was drafted by a committee which he and Skweyiya were part of during the transition to democracy.
The Joint Constitutional Review Committee has called on written public submissions on the review of the section to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.
This comes after a majority of parliamentarians earlier this year voted in favour of an amended Economic Freedom Fighters’ motion on land expropriation without compensation.
Ngcuka said he had served on the African National Congress’ (ANC’s) constitutional committee which was tasked with putting together a draft constitution which the party would table as proposals during the Convention for Democratic South Africa (Codesa) negotiations.
He said the committee had identified the land issue as one of the key and critical questions that would ensure that the South African population and the mass democratic movement would support the ANC during negotiations.
“We worked on it, we developed papers, we arranged a conference which […] was in Mpumalanga, we invited international experts to come and participate, we invited, internally, legal experts and our own people,” he said.
Ngcuka said their next undertaking was establishing a Constitutional Court.
“We were worried that if you are going to make the Constitution the supreme law of the land and then you have the apartheid judges who were going to declare that the law passed by the democratic parliament is unconstitutional, that was not going to be acceptable to us,” he said.
Ngcuka said through his intellect, capacity and ability Skweyiya was able to manage the team of heavyweight politicians who were part of that committee which he moulded into a unit.
He said he worked with Skweyiya for many years and that he first met him in 1985 at a meeting scheduled to discuss the plight of children who were being arrested at the time during the state of emergency in apartheid South Africa.
“From the moment I met Zola he was very empowering, he thrust us into the deep end and he gave us opportunities which we didn’t have,” Ngcuka said.
He said Skweyiya had been resourceful and was the brains behind a successful campaign abroad by the then UDF president Archibald Gumede to raise awareness on the atrocities of apartheid.
“When I think about the work that Zola has done, he always encouraged us to promote black people,” Ngcuka said.
Skweyiya’s former colleagues and friends described him as a person who was disciplined, loved serving the poor and ensuring that all have a better life.
The former minister and high commissioner to the UK died last week after a long illness.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a Special Official Funeral, Category 1, for Skweyiya and ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at all flag stations countrywide and at South African Diplomatic Missions abroad until the evening of 21 April 2018 — the day of the funeral.
President Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy at the Special Official Funeral Service on Saturday, 21 April, at the CRC Church in Pretoria East.