South Africa Land Reform to Safeguard Property Rights, ANC Says
(Bloomberg) -- The South African ruling party’s plans on land reform, which include expropriating land without compensation in certain circumstances, will ensure that property rights are safeguarded, its spokesman on the issue said.
“This is not going to diminish or wipe out property rights,” Ronald Lamola, a member of the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee, said on Bloomberg TV Wednesday. “We’ve been very clear that we don’t want to” hurt confidence or collapse the economy, he said.
The ANC has called for changes to the constitution to clarify under which circumstances it can seize land without compensation to address racially skewed land-ownership patterns dating back to colonial and apartheid rule.
Critics say it could erode property rights and fears of Zimbabwe-style land grabs have stoked investor concerns and helped weaken the rand. With general elections looming next year, President Cyril Ramaphosa has embraced expropriation without compensation, but insists there won’t be a state-sanctioned land grab.
‘Rule of Law’
Land reform “will be done properly and through the rule of law,” Lamola said.
Changing section 25 of the constitution isn’t the ANC’s only strategy to ensure land reform, Lamola said, adding that regardless of amendments, this law protects individual rights. The government is redrafting its Land Expropriation Bill that will define the circumstances under which land could be expropriated even if the move to change the constitution failed. The debate for constitutional changes will take time and is unlikely to be completed before the general elections, expected in about May. “I don’t see it being finished anytime soon,” he said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg offices.
There is consensus on the need to distribute land to the country’s black majority to change racially skewed ownership patterns, Lamola said. “It is not about driving people to the sea,” he said.
Agri SA, the nation’s biggest farming industry lobby group, said in August it will go to the country’s highest court to protect property rights.
South Africa’s farmers are among the world’s biggest white corn, table-grape and citrus-fruit exporters, and are the second-largest producers of a wool variety used in clothing. A 2017 state-commissioned land audit shows that third of the country’s rural land is owned by individuals and 72 percent of that is in white hands. Companies and trusts hold 43 percent of rural land, and the race of their beneficiaries and owners is difficult to determine.
The populist Economic Freedom Fighters party, which has won support from young voters in impoverished townships, supports the change and wants all land nationalized, which the ANC is against.
“We don’t support blanket nationalization,” Lamola said.
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