South Africa amends Constitution for Land Reform

South Africa amends Constitution for Land Reform
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to amend the country's constitution so farmlands can be seized without compensation.The plan aims to rewrite the Apartheid legacy and bring about radical economic transformation in South Africa..

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to amend the country's constitution so farmlands can be seized without compensation.The plan aims to rewrite the Apartheid legacy and bring about radical economic transformation in South Africa. 

Background 

Dutch settler landed on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 and began setting up farms in and around Cape Town. In 1795, the British occupied the region, sparking a long-running conflict with the original Dutch settlers,  known as the Boers. This resulted in two Anglo-Boer wars. After the second war, the British unified the colonies into a single country called the Union of South Africa.

The 1913 Natives’ Land Act allocated only 8 %  of the land for black people. Whereas the white people, who were in minority, owned 90% of the land. The act formed an essential part of the South African legal framework for land control up until the fall of Apartheid in 1991.

The African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled South Africa since the fall of apartheid,  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.

Earlier this year, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party’s motion seeking to change the constitution to allow for land reform was backed by ANU and passed. However, the government is yet to work out the details of the implementation process. President Ramaphosa said expropriation without compensation will be one of the measures used by the government to speed up redistribution. 

Analysis 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on  July 31 said that his ruling party would seek to change the constitution to speed up redistribution of land to the country's poor black majority.He added,"We call on all South Africans to work with us on developing a social compact for economic inclusion, economic growth and jobs for all." 

The ruling party in South Africa, African National Congress (ANC), will submit a proposal to amend the country's constitution to help push through its land reform.The controversial reform would allow the government to take land from white farmers without paying for it, that is, an ‘expropriation with compensation’ model. 

"It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation," President Ramaphosa said."The ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalize a proposed amendment to the constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected," he added. 

Almost one-third of the arable land on South Africa is privately owned, and white farmers own 72% of it, compared to only 4% from the majority black population. The discrepancy stems from the apartheid era, which ended in 1994. 

Last year, South Africa's then-president Jacob Zuma publicly endorsed the idea of seizing land, previously floated by the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party. Mr. Zuma said that the reform would be conducted "within the law, within the constitution" but only where is "necessary and unavoidable."

Zuma's successor Ramaphosa reportedly opposed the idea at first, but changed course as the country was moving closer to the election set for next year. 

The parliament has set up a committee to determine whether the measure warrants a constitutional change, which is due to present their findings by the end of August.During his Thursday address, Ramaphosa said the reform would "unlock economic growth by bringing more land in South Africa to full use" and let millions more contribute to the nation's economy.The ANC does not have enough lawmakers in the parliament to amend the constitution on its own, but the support from EFF would allow it to pass the two-thirds threshold.

South Africa will not be the first African nation to face the perils of land redistribution. The program carried out by former Zimbabwean President Mugabe in the 1990s and 2000s saw food production plummet and the country’s economy suffered massively. Experts believe the reform caused around $20 billion in expenses to the Zimbabwean tax payers and economy, and the country's government eventually decided it would retroactively reimburse the farmers.South Africa has been redistributing land since the mid-1990s  at a very slow pace. Studies show that the impact has not been that profound, but self-sufficiency ratio has been declining slowly. 

Counterpoint 

The method of expropriation without compensation will lead to the collapse of the banking sector as they have surety bonds on farms to the value of 180 billion rand. Further,it would create uncertainty and reduce the chances of much needed international investments for the growth of South Africa's economy. 

Assessment

Our assessment is that the constitutional amendment will lead to ‘Zimbabwe-like’  effects of land reform to manifest in South Africa. We feel that the ANC must ensure that counter measures are adopted so that the overall food production is not compromised. We believe that the South African government must build partnerships between farmers and communities that claim land. 

 

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