Fri. Oct 18th, 2019

SONA 2019: Ramaphosa talks land reform, skirts expropriation

SONA land reform expropriationIs accelerated land reform a synonym for land expropriation without compensation?

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An accelerated land reform programme will be furthered
during South Africa’s 6th parliamentary sitting – whether this is
intrinsically linked to expropriation without compensation is still to be seen.

This was the clear message delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa
during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), delivered on Thursday 20 June.
The deeply contentious issue of land expropriation without compensation – which
dominated discourse under the previous parliamentary programme – was not
mentioned by name.

Accerlated land reform touched on during SONA

Instead, the president focused his rhetoric on land reform, citing the advisory panel which submitted its findings earlier this month. The comprehensive report, penned by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), led by Deputy President, David Mabuza, outlines issues of restitution, redistribution, tenure security and agricultural support.

The IMC on land reform began its work more than eight months
ago and, in the process, engaged with various business sectors, civil societies
and other stakeholders. Inequality, as a result of the nation’s segregated and oppressive
past, was a central theme in addressing issues of land policy, which, according
to the ruling party, will be amended to build a more inclusive South Africa.

While Ramaphosa, himself, in 2018, endorsed the populist call for land to be expropriated without compensation, the international fallout which followed has seemingly softened the president’s approach.

President Ramaphosa mum on expropriation without compensation

Ramaphosa did, however, open his latest State of the Nation Address in stoic fashion by outlining the atrocities relating to land and the how dispossession robbed the majority of South Africans, saying:

“We gather here at the start of the 6th Democratic Parliament, 106 years to the day after the Natives Land Act – one of the most devastating acts of dispossession, pain and humiliation – came into force.

Our people suffered gravely and endured untold hardships as a result of the implementation of the Natives Land Act. The effects of that law are still present with us.”

In stark contrast to his previous address, however,
Ramaphosa went on to skirt the issue of expropriation without compensation. In
February 2019, Ramaphosa announced:

“We will support the work of the Constitutional Review Committee tasked with the review of Section 25 of the Constitution to unambiguously set out provisions for expropriation of land without compensation.”

This time, however, the president was far more reserved on
the issue of land, saying:

“Faster economic growth also requires accelerated land reform in rural and urban areas and a clear property rights regime.

We have received the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, which will now be presented to Cabinet for consideration.

The panel’s recommendations will inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme.”

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