Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has revealed South Africa will pursue far more radical land reform policies in the future.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ANC policy conference in Midrand, Joemat-Pettersson told the Mail & Guardian the meeting's sectoral commission on land reform and rural development was "spirited" but "sober".
"We have no choice but to speed up land reform as a matter of urgency. The economic future of this country depends on how this is dealt with," she said.
Joemat-Pettersson said there would be "some real changes" in the land reform policies employed in South Africa.
"The policies employed going forward will alter the way we do things now but will be done in such a way that our food security won't be threatened – that is of paramount importance. We also can't undermine the current value of all our white farmers," she said.
Joemat-Pettersson said this did not mean changing constitutional laws governing land ownership.
"We don't need to change the Constitution to reach our land reform goals. We just need to change the way we implement the Constitution," she said.
President Jacob Zuma's opening address at the conference was a further indication there would be land reform changes. He said the current policy of "willing buyer – willing seller" needed to be changed because it was "not working".
Land ownership is a thorny issue with government claiming up to 87% of South Africa's agricultural land is still in the hands of white farmers.
Government's original plan to have 30% of disputed arable land diverted back to the black majority by 1999 has failed.
Section 25 of the Constitution states land must be expropriated "within law" and for an "equitable price".
These comments come at a time of heightened tension surrounding land reform.
The Democratic Alliance this week laid criminal charges against ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola after he claimed "Zimbabwe style" land invasions were on the cards if government did not speed up land restitution to blacks.