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South Africa Votes to Seize Land from White Farmers – Without Compensation

IMAGE: South Africa’s new leader President Cyril Ramaphosa has hit the ground running with what is sure to become a controversial program.

After 25 years of post-apartheid governance, South Africa is finally following in the footsteps of its neighbor Zimbabwe by introducing radical new land reform measures designed to correct its past ‘colonial injustices’.

In the capital of Johannesburg today, South Africa’s new president President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has just replaced the outgoing leader Jacob Zuma, confirmed the new land repatriation program will move ahead following a motion that passed on Tuesday with 241 votes in favour and 83 against. Parliament then instructed a committee be formed to review the constitution and then report back by August 30th.

A parliamentary committee would assess a constitutional amendment to enable “land expropriation without compensation.”

The motion was brought by the radical left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, but was supported by the ANC, which controls almost two-thirds of the parliament compared with EFF’s 6%.

However, Ramaphosa was adamant there would be no chaotic “no smash and grab” and that the transfer would be managed through multiparty dialogue and handled with extreme care so as not to disrupt the country’s already fragile economy.

“It is a question that we will continue to handle with care and responsibility,” said Ramaphosa.

When Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe instigated his land reform policies the late 1990s – stripping  white farmers of agricultural land, it triggered a food production crisis followed by a steep economic collapse from which the country has struggled to recover from ever since.

The non-compensation aspect will almost certainly be opposed by land owners and affiliated national and transnational corporations – many of whom have reinvested billions in working capital to sustain and develop business which include some of the world’s top brands in agriculture, food and beverage. It is likely that such businesses will eventually be offered long-term lease deals, joint ownership schemes, or rental agreements – in order to maintain the continuity of their businesses – many of which provide jobs and income for millions of black South Africans, as well as whites.

The EFF language was strong though, with leader Julius Malema telling parliament: “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.”

Ramaphosa appears to be adopting a calmer even-handed approach and to “avoid panic”, but external and public pressures could eventually force more radical action should the process drag on for too long.

The President says he seeks to end racial disparities in property ownership “once and for all.”

“I will shortly initiate a dialogue with key stakeholders,” he said, adding: “There is no need for any one of us to panic and start beating war drums.

“We are going to address this and make sure that we come up with resolutions that resolve this once and for all. This original sin that was committed when our country was colonised must be resolved in a way that will take South Africa forward.”

Why South Africa’s govt plans to strip land from white farmers

How did white farmers get the land in the first place?

RT International reports…

Dutch Calvinist settlers first landed on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 and soon began setting up farms in the arable regions around Cape Town. Over the following decades the number of Dutch (and some German and French) settlers grew. They continuously claimed land from the local Khoikhoi until the entire cape was colonized.

The British seized the region in 1795, sparking a long running conflict with the original Dutch settlers, now known as the Boers. To escape British rule the Boers pushed deeper north and northeast, claiming land in the present-day provinces of Free State and Natal. Eventually they established independent Boer republics.

Old photo introducing an article of the French newspaper “Revue illustrée” (Hardcover Tome 1902), article entitled “The epic of the Boers” (War of the Transvaal) in the “Illustrated Review” (Hardcover Tome 1902, p 41). Source: WikiCommons

Numerous wars and conflicts between colonists, both British and Boer, and local people including the Xhosa, Zulu, Basotho and Ndebele broke out over the intervening years, particularly as gold and diamonds were discovered. The colonists took advantage of their superior weaponry to claim further territories.

Eventually tensions between the Boers and the British boiled over, resulting in two Anglo-Boer wars. In the aftermath of the second war the British unified the colonies into a single country called the Union of South Africa.

The country’s 1913 Natives’ Land Act earmarked only eight percent of the land for black people. White people, who made up about 20 percent of the population, owned 90 percent of the land. The act set the legal framework for the control of South African land up until the fall of Apartheid in 1991.

Who actually owns the land?

The amount of land actually owned by whites is a contentious and much-debated issue. The statistics remain unclear. Many South African politicians in favor of land reform claim that, in a country of 55 million people, a mere 40,000 white farmers own 80 percent of the country’s agricultural land. However, a study by fact-checking website Africa Check found that the claim isn’t supported by any dataset, labelling it incorrect.

“Land ownership is still deeply skewed along racial lines, but these figures do not illuminate the current land dispensation,” Professor Cherryl Walker said.

Walker, author of ‘Landmarked: Land Claims and Land Restitution in South Africa,’ prepared a fact sheet on land distribution for the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) last year. It revealed that 67 percent of South Africa is used for agriculture and that, while the vast majority of this is indeed owned by white farmers, “small numbers” of black people with access to capital have managed to acquire land independent of land reform.

Why is the government doing it now?

The African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled South Africa since the fall of apartheid, has long promised reforms to redress racial disparities in land ownership. Despite more than 20 years of ANC rule whites still own most of South Africa’s land.

Land redistribution was the key talking point ahead of last year’s ANC national conference where Cyril Ramaphosa was chosen to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader. The party appeared deeply divided in the run up to December’s vote and, while it still dominates the South African political landscape, it had its worst result since 1994 in last year’s local elections…

Continue this story at RT

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