Ramaphosa dodges explaining land reform plan

“We are listening to the heartbeat of South Africans and this heartbeat tells us there is land hunger, and this land hunger will continue” President Cyril Ramaphosa (David Harrison/M&G)

“We are listening to the heartbeat of South Africans and this heartbeat tells us there is land hunger, and this land hunger will continue” President Cyril Ramaphosa (David Harrison/M&G)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the government’s support for land expropriation without compensation, but dodged explaining to gathered MPs if the state has worked out a detailed plan to make it happen.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane had submitted a question in Parliament on how the state plans to expropriate land without paying for it. But Ramaphosa’s response was that there will be “broad discussions” and that Parliament’s Constitution Review Committee will decide on whether the Constitution should be amended.

In February, the National Assembly adopted a resolution brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters to begin a process to amend the Constitution allowing land expropriation without compensation. Ramaphosa, while answering questions in the House on Wednesday, said that whatever plan is developed will take agriculture and food security into account.

“We are going to make sure that as we implement this resolution we become very clear to not damage our economy and food production in our economy and food security,” Ramaphosa said.

He also said that government would work on a strategy so that public-owned land that is not being used may be instead developed for housing for people who live far away from urban centres.

“In order to advance land reform in our country we should embark on a number of mechanisms and the taking of land without compensation is one of those mechanisms we will use,” he said.

Ramaphosa said that land dispossession was the “original sin” in South Africa. The return of the land, he said, would mark the return of dignity to people who remain dispossessed.

“This is the time to sit back and listen to the heart-wrenching stories of South Africans whose land and assets were taken from them,” he said.

The president however, was firm in that land grabs would not be tolerated. In recent days, the EFF has taken responsibility for a massive land grab operation in Centurion, Gauteng. There have been numerous other land grabs by landless citizens in provinces around the country in response to poverty.

But Ramaphosa encouraged police to take action against those who perpetuate land grabs.

“We cannot be in a situation where we allow land grabs because that is anarchy,” he said.

Ramaphosa also took a swipe at the DA, who heckled him throughout the session, saying that swart gevaar tactics must be avoided in the discussion about land.

“Nor should we resort to the kind of swart gevaar electioneering that some parties have resorted to,” he said.

At the weekend the DA was criticised after an SMS from the party’s official structures said that the EFF and the ANC were stealing land from owners. The opposition has remained vehemently against the resolution saying it will violate the rights of property.

The Congress of the People’s Mosiuoa Lekota, meanwhile,  asked Ramaphosa who would be the beneficiaries of the land expropriation without compensation resolution the governing party and the state has adopted. Lekota said that South Africa was racially diverse and asked Ramaphosa that when he said “our people”, who was he referring to?

“Our people are all South Africans, but we lay more emphasis on people who are poor in our country, people who are landless in our country,” Ramaphosa answered.

Ramaphosa encouraged political parties who opposed the resolution to instead discuss the issue and come on board.

“We are listening to the heartbeat of South Africans and this heartbeat tells us there is land hunger, and this land hunger will continue,” he said. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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