Cabinet: Don’t panic over land reform

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet has called on members of the public and landowners to make submissions to Parliament about new legislation being drafted to approve the expropriation of land without compensation and warned against polarising views which are currently dominating the debate.

“We know that when you have to deal with the real structures of a divided nation, it would create discomfort,” Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said after Wednesday’s meeting. “But we are also quite aware that it is not correct to conclude that it’s the white community in its totality that is opposed. But it’s a particular group within.” 

The ANC’s historic decision to support a motion to amend the Constitution to redistribute land without compensation has drawn opposition within the country and now an international response. Australian Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton announced on Wednesday that special visas would be considered for white South Africans.

READ MORE: Why Australia is saving SA farmers from ‘African gangs’

“Precisely because of a highly politicised society we live in, there are extremes on both sides. There are extremes who want to just invade land and occupy somebody’s land, and there will be those who say you are not going to tamper with what I’ve had, demonstrating supremacy. But both extremes don’t represent the South Africa we aspire to have and we must never tire to engage them,” Mokonyane said.

But Cabinet this week welcomed the adoption of the motion, which it says followed more than 20 years of attempts to “reverse the legacy of land dispossession under colonialism and apartheid”.

Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee is due to report to the National Assembly at the end of August and public hearings will be held until then.

READ MORE: Land reform can be done reasonably

“Cabinet calls on stakeholders to make their input during this process of engagement, which will guide the solutions to take our country forward,” the Cabinet statement read.

But Mokonyane said the cabinet was concerned that appeals were now being made by minority rights groups to other countries for protection against expropriation without compensation.

“Of course Cabinet does get concerned that people go to an extent of going internationally to protect white supremacy, and projecting themselves as the custodians of the interests of the white community.”

But she said: “We do believe that if we have to deal with an inclusive society, the freeway can’t divide Sandton and Alexandra forever.”

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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