South Africa’s president insists that the on-going seizure of white-owned farms “is no land grab” as his government falls under international scrutiny for what many see as a violation of private property rights.
President Cyril Ramaphosa defends what he calls “accelerated land reform” as a solution to “narrow gaps in income” and “severe inequality between black and white South Africans,” in his op-ed for the Financial Times.
Despite admitting the ruling African National Congress “recently resolved to propose a constitutional amendment that would make explicit the conditions under which land could justifiably be expropriated without compensation,” Ramaphosa claims the pursuance of such a course would actually reinforce rights for all South Africans.
“This is no land grab. Nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property,” Ramaphosa writes. “The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. South Africa has learned from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.”
“The proposal on expropriation without compensation is one element of a broader programme of land reform that seeks to ensure that all citizens can have their land rights recognized, whether they live in communal areas, informal settlements or on commercial farms.”
“Land reform in South Africa is a moral, social and economic imperative,” Ramaphosa concludes. “By bringing more land into productive use, by giving more South Africans assets and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, the country is creating conditions for greater, more inclusive and more meaningful growth.”
In contrast to Ramaphosa’s defense of land seizure, the rhetoric of EFF leader Julius Malema – whom some believe to be the true driving force behind the shift in government policy – is decidedly more direct and brazen.
“Through land expropriation, we are forcing white people to share the land which was gained through a crime against the humanity of black and African people,” Malema said in a press conference last week. “We are not going to be distracted by anyone. Only death will stop us. Not Trump, not poverty, not sanctions… We know the consequences of what we are asking for.”
Dan Lyman: Follow @CitizenAnalyst