South African lawmakers mull land reform as parliamentary debate nears

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Photo: Nic Bothma/EPA

Starting today, Cape Town will play host to South Africa’s parliamentary committee on land reform for a two-day constitutional dialogue on land ownership.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has consistently guaranteed that land reforms will be executed carefully, protecting the rights of land owners in rural areas while maintaining food security. The president considers land expropriation vital to the transformation of the world’s most unequal society, as defined by the World Bank’s Gini coefficient measure of income inequality.

The committee’s plan is to amend the constitution to explicitly authorise the expropriation of land without compensation as a way to redress the wrongs of arbitrary land dispossessions during the 19th and 20th centuries. While this would be controversial, the committee has remained open to public participation, as required by the South African constitution.

The program is expected be finalised in March 2020, when it could stir racial tensions, with critics claiming that such a program would drive away white farmers. Meanwhile, uncertainty surrounding land reforms will not help South Africa’s ailing economy, which is experiencing lagging growth and an ever-increasing debt to GDP ratio.

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