South Africa is forging ahead with plans to change its constitution to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation.
The country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office after Jacob Zuma resigned earlier this year says the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will push to get the move through parliament.
The lingering pace of land reform has caused anger in the country since the end of the apartheid era.
The amendment was first introduced in parliament in December but was decided at the ANC’s national executive committee Lekgotla in Tshwane on Tuesday night.
In a televised addressed to the nation, the President said his party would “finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected.”
“It has become pertinently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation as demonstrated in the public hearings,” Ramaphosa said.
Despite continued promises to redress the inequality in land ownership, white farmers still own 72 percent of fertile land, compared to just 4 percent for minority black farmers. This disparity in land holding has long since been seen as a symbol of the enduring inequalities within South Africa.
Since the end of apartheid, 25 years ago, the dominant model in South Africa has always been one of ‘willing seller, willing buyer’, whereby land is distributed to black farmers from white farmers who are willing to sell it. Progress, however, has been sluggish which has angered the population – approximately 10 percent of the desired 30 percent of land has been redistributed.
But while many remain optimistic about the new reforms, others maintain that a constitutional change isn’t needed and cite parallels between the Zimbabwean model whereby white farmers were arguably forced off land.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa has repeatedly said that the change would “unlock economic growth by bringing more land in South Africa to full use.”