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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses Members of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa.

    President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses Members of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 November 2018
Opinion

President Ramaphosa and the African National Congress put land redistribution at the center of public debate ahead of 2019 elections.

South Africans "overwhelmingly support" changing the country's Constitution to allow land expropriations without compensation, Parliament announced Thursday based on the findings of a draft report submitted by the Constitutional Review Committee.

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This report stems from both public hearings held throughout the country and 450,000 valid written submissions gathered by the Parliament.

“According to the draft report, there was overwhelming support in the public hearings for a constitutional amendment on expropriation of land without compensation,” parliament’s press office said in a statement. The draft report "further states that those opposed to a constitutional amendment argued that the rejection of expropriation without compensation did not mean that (they) did not support land reform." 

However, the current government is under increased pressure to secure the possibility for land expropriation in order to reverse apartheid-era inequality.

In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the African Nacional Congress (ANC) planned to amend the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, in a shift from the "willing seller, willing buyer" model, which has yielded moderate results in terms of land redistribution. The amendment is now a key issue in the legislative agenda.

Since the end of apartheid in the early 1990s, no more than 10 percent of the white-owned land has been transferred back to Black South Africans. Most of South Africa's fertile land remains controlled by white farmers. In 2016, the Parliament approved a bill allowing the "compulsory purchase" of land by the state to later transfer the land to Black citizens but not many White farmers have been interested in selling their property.

In 2019, the ruling ANC will face an election challenge from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a left-wing party that has been actively promoting land reform and redistribution as a means to tackle inequality in South Africa.

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