ANC Rejects State Ownership of All South African Land, President Says

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s ruling party “rejects the notion” that all the nation’s land be owned by the state, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

While the concept of “willing buyer, willing seller” hasn’t seen the majority of land being transferred to black citizens who were disenfranchised during white-minority rule under apartheid, the African National Congress wants all people to have similar rights to land, he said in an interview broadcast on Johannesburg-based eNCA Monday.

“Land is an asset that people want to have in their hands so that they can work this asset,” he said. We’re going to embark on an agricultural revolution that’s going to empower our people to work land effectively.” Businesses with land “are willing participants” and want to be “cut into the solution,” he said.

Land and the access to it is one of the symbols of inequality in the nation of about 56 million where wealth and poverty are largely divided along racial lines. Today, white people own almost three quarters of South Africa’s agricultural land, according to a land audit by farm lobbying group Agri SA, down from 87 percent during the segregation system known as apartheid.

The ANC is pushing for the right to seize land without compensation for redistribution to black citizens to tackle an issue that divides the nation once infamous for a legislated system of racial segregation. The decision brings the party closer to the populist Economic Freedom Fighters party, which has won support from young voters in impoverished townships by vowing to nationalize everything from land to banks.

‘Love Affair’

The ANC will contest national elections next year in the first ballot since the opposition won control of several key municipalities, including the biggest and richest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria, in 2016.

Voters “are rekindling their love affair with the ANC” after distancing themselves from the party after it “deviated from its values,” Ramaphosa said.

“Our mission is to have a united ANC,” he said. “We’re busy holding conferences around the country, and those are being underpinned by spirit of renewal. I am confident -- confident underlined -- that the ANC is going to forge unity and we’ll go into the elections as a united force.”

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