Features

Ramaphosa forges ahead with land grab

South Africa gears up for land reform. Matthew Partridge reports.

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Ramaphosa: treading a dangerous path

Earlier this month, Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's president, said that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) "would forge ahead with plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation", say Jason Burke and David Smith in The Guardian.

While no legislation has yet been passed, "all major political parties in South Africa have agreed there is a need for extensive land reform in the country". More than 70% of land is held by white farmers, according to official figures, even though white people make up just 8% of the population.

What the ANC is proposing "is pointless at best and dangerous at worst", says The Economist. While Ramaphosa "insists that land would be taken without harming the economy", investors "fear an incremental assault on property rights".

Existing efforts to change land distribution have resulted in "corruption" and "spurious claims". Instead of trying to move land from one group to another, "the best place to start helping poor blacks is to let them secure their full rights to land they already hold" and to "release state-owned land, which makes up about 11% of the total".

Yet wider reform is sorely needed, says the Financial Times. Black Africans were unjustly stripped of their land in 1913 under the Natives Land Act. Previous attempts to redress this injustice had only "marginal success". The status quo is "morally and politically untenable" and doing nothing invites a violent reckoning. "Ramaphosa has a chance to go about this in a measured way. It is the alternatives that would spell disaster."

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