Cyril Ramaphosa rejecting State land ownership a non sequitur

CAPE TOWN — It may be a bit of a red-herring when President Cyril Ramaphosa says in a TV interview that his party rejects the concept of the State owning all the land. Sounds to me suspiciously like a union negotiator “conceding” unrealistically high demands in order to secure his real goal. In this case expropriation of land without compensation. The State owning all the land might be an EFF or PAC position, but it’s never been the ANC’s, which raises the question of why the concept is being rejected in the first place. Is it to distance the ANC from its increasingly EFF-like policies? Or to let those who currently own three quarters of the agricultural land know that it could easily get much worse? Or both? There’s no doubt that the President is signalling radical change in land ownership, using words like “embarking on an agricultural revolution,” to both pacify his land-hungry constituency and wield the big stick to farmers seemingly unwilling to seek a solution least damaging to themselves. It’s going to be interesting if/when Ramaphosa spells out how the ANC will empower its people to work the land effectively – and even more fascinating to see it put into practice. Let the expropriator beware. – Chris Bateman

By Amogelang Mbatha and Ana Monteiro

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s ruling party “rejects the notion” that all the nation’s land be owned by the state, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

While the concept of “willing buyer, willing seller” hasn’t seen the majority of land being transferred to black citizens who were disenfranchised during white-minority rule under apartheid, the African National Congress wants all people to have similar rights to land, he said in an interview broadcast on Johannesburg-based eNCA Monday.

“Land is an asset that people want to have in their hands so that they can work this asset,” he said. “We’re going to embark on an agricultural revolution that’s going to empower our people to work land effectively.” Businesses with land “are willing participants” and want to be “cut into the solution,” he said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

Land and the access to it is one of the symbols of inequality in the nation of about 56 million where wealth and poverty are largely divided along racial lines. Today, white people own almost three quarters of South Africa’s agricultural land, according to a land audit by farm lobbying group Agri SA, down from 87 percent during the segregation system known as apartheid.

The ANC is pushing for the right to seize land without compensation for redistribution to black citizens to tackle an issue that divides the nation once infamous for a legislated system of racial segregation. The decision brings the party closer to the populist Economic Freedom Fighters party, which has won support from young voters in impoverished townships by vowing to nationalise everything from land to banks.

‘Love affair’

The ANC will contest national elections next year in the first ballot since the opposition won control of several key municipalities, including the biggest and richest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria, in 2016.

Voters “are rekindling their love affair with the ANC” after distancing themselves from the party after it “deviated from its values,” Ramaphosa said.

“Our mission is to have a united ANC,” he said. “We’re busy holding conferences around the country, and those are being underpinned by spirit of renewal. I am confident – confident underlined – that the ANC is going to forge unity and we’ll go into the elections as a united force.”

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