Land Expropriation Can Be Abused by Populists, Nene Says

(Bloomberg) -- Land expropriation without compensation would be dealt with in a “responsible manner” that addresses social challenges without affecting the economy negatively, South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said.

The government will have concrete proposals for land reform “on the table” by August, Nene told reporters in London after a series of meetings with investors. The issue “has the potential to be abused” for political purposes, he said.

Land Expropriation Can Be Abused by Populists, Nene Says

A parliamentary committee is currently looking at amending the constitution to allow land seizures without compensation, a change the main opposition Democratic Alliance says will deter investment and curb agricultural production. The ruling African National Congress, backed by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, argues that existing mechanisms to address inequalities in land ownership are inadequate.

The ANC decided at its December conference, where it elected Cyril Ramaphosa as leader, to pursue expropriation without compensation and also to change legislation to make the central bank state-owned instead of being in private hands. This is not a priority and the Reserve Bank’s mandate and independence is not in question, Nene said.

South Africa is committed to fiscal consolidation, both on the revenue and expenditure side, and would look to increase capacity at the South African Revenue Service to improve tax collection, Nene said.

The minister and Treasury officials met with Fitch Ratings Ltd. and Moody’s Investors Service on Monday, Nene said. South Africa’s seeking to avoid a cut to sub-investment grade by Moody’s which in November put the nation on review for a downgrade.

The Treasury’s team is scheduled to meet investors in New York later this week.

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