World

South Africa Plows On With Land Seizure Reform, Drops Bill Offering Compensation

A bill that would have allowed the South African government to enact compulsory land purchases with compensation has been withdrawn from consideration.

The amendment was withdrawn by the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, Reuters reported. It was initially passed by parliament in 2016 but had not yet been signed into law. 

The issue of land expropriation in South Africa gained international attention this week when President Donald Trump weighed in, voicing his support for white farmers who he claimed are under threat of “large scale killing” and having their land taken from them.

The South African government quickly dismissed Trump’s assertion, describing the tweet as a “narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.”

The removed amendment covered “just and equitable” payment for land seizures. However, it has been withdrawn in case it clashes with any proposals coming from government-ordered review of a possible constitutional amendment to allow land seizures without compensation.

According to Eyewitness News, the committee’s chairperson Humphrey Mmemezi said Parliament submitted the bill on procedural grounds, but that the body cannot duplicate a separate parliamentary process. “If we, as Parliament, resolve to hear the people of South Africa on that important clause, it then goes without question that we must send the bill back to Parliament,” he explained.

“We’re also quite aware that our parliament has set up an ad hoc committee that deals with Section 25 of the Constitutional reviewal committee,” Mmemezi said, “which is already preparing a report to the same parliament.” As such, he said the committee had no choice but to withdraw it.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said earlier this month that his government would continue its pursuit of the amendment to allow the expropriation of land without offering compensation. No such amendment has yet been passed.

In its statement, the ANC reiterated its continued commitment to “the expropriation of land without compensation as one of the measures to ensure that land reform is implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those...from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.”

The issue has become a cause célèbre for white nationalist groups across the globe, especially in Anglophone nations. Many commentators criticized Trump for parroting far-right conspiracy theories about so-called “white genocide.” According to AgriSA—a collective of hundreds of agricultural groups across the country—the murder rate for white farmers is currently at a 20-year low, though the number of attacks has been increasing.

Seventy-two percent of land in South Africa is held by white farmers, even though they represent just 8 percent of the population. This inequality serves as a powerful reminder of the racial divide that persists between the country’s white and black citizens nearly 25 years after the end of apartheid.

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