Barely a month into his presidency of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, also president of the African National Congress (ANC), has taken sides on a hot button issue whose resolution had eluded previous leaders. He vowed to speed up the seizure of land from White owners and turn the properties over to Blacks.
“This original sin that was committed when our country was colonized must be resolved in a way that will take South Africa forward,” he declared.
The resolution calling for expropriation without compensation was introduced by the self-described radical and militant Economic Freedom Front, and passed 241 votes in agreement, and 83 votes against.
Sinawo Thambo, provincial chairperson of the group’s Student Command in the Western Cape, exuberantly described the vote in an article titled “Land Expropriation a Victory for Africa.”
“Land dispossession in South Africa, although marred by barbaric violence, was also a legislated policy,” he wrote. “The oppression of exploitation of the black majority was rationalized under a parliamentary and judicial framework. This means it is engrained in history and in policy that perpetuates the dire conditions the black majority exists in in this country.
“Central to the (newly-passed) resolution is the agreement not to compensate when expropriating land,” he continued, because “it is unreasonable to expect compensation for land theft and the criminal process of colonialism. It would be justifying the rational of dispossession as an acceptable fact and rewarding theft. It simply should not be done and the debates in Parliament expressed that succinctly.”
Other measures proposed by the new president were announced in his State of the Nation address.
Among the initiatives planned to jumpstart the economy are: a jobs summit, an investment conference, and compulsory local procurement in major economic sectors with a focus on youth empowerment.
His stand on land reform was cautious and measured: “We are determined that expropriation without compensation be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensure that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.
”Government will undertake a process of consultation to determine the modalities of the implementation of this resolution,” he told the Assembly.
Ramaphosa rejected the torrent of criticisms appearing in national and international media. There will be “no smash-and-grab of land in our country”, he responded. “That we will not allow. There is no need for anyone to panic and beat the drums of war,” adding that the “issue would be solved without any problems”.
Everyone will have an opportunity, regardless of their race, birthplace or the wealth of their parents, he said, and repeated it in Afrikaans.