The consultations aimed at mapping out how land expropriation without compensation will work must be inclusive and handled in the most responsible manner.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said this when he fielded questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday for the first time since he was sworn into the highest office in the land.
It is critical that this is an inclusive process, in which all South Africans are actively involved in finding just, equitable and lasting solutions. It requires responsibility and maturity from all leaders.
We should not pretend that there is anything revolutionary in encouraging people to illegally occupy land, nor should we resort to the kind of ‘swart gevaar’ [black danger] electioneering that some parties have resorted to. Let us engage in this debate as a nation. I invite all those who are angry, anxious, uncertain, excited and inspired to be part of finding a solution on this issue, the President said on Wednesday.
Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane had asked the President what were the full details of government’s plan for land expropriation without compensation following his pronouncements during the State of the Nation Address in February.
The President said as indicated in the State of the Nation Address, government will undertake a process of broad consultation to determine the modalities of the implementation of expropriation.
Following this announcement, the National Assembly passed a ground-breaking resolution on this matter, opening up an opportunity for all South Africans to participate in this critical debate.
This matter has been firmly placed on the national agenda and we applaud those who have come forward with views and proposals.
This process of engagement presents an opportunity for a new, reinvigorated drive for meaningful and sustainable land reform. This is an opportunity to assert the transformational intent of our Constitution, he said.
President Ramaphosa said land is the centre of human existence and that land dispossessions had left a scar on indigenous population groups. He said the return of the land to those who work it is fundamental to the transformation of society.
Since 1994, the democratic government has embarked on a series of interventions to advance land reform, including restitution, redistribution and tenure reform.
While more than three million hectares of land was restored between 1995 and 2014, the Land Audit Report indicates that whites still own around 72% of the farms owned by individuals, coloureds 15%, Indians 5% and Africans only 4%, the President said.
It was also reported that males own 72% and female only 13%. We must therefore work with urgency to significantly and sustainably accelerate the pace of land reform. The expropriation of land without compensation is one of the mechanisms that government will use to do this.
Social compacting central to economic recovery
The President said, meanwhile, that social compacting is critical to ensuring that the country’s economy recovers.
ANC MP Lusizo Makhubele-Mashele had asked the President what government’s position was on the relationship between the concept of social compact and creating drivers of economic recovery.
It is imperative that government, labour, business and civil society agree on a set of fundamental actions and work in concert to implement them. At the same time, each of these social partners needs to commit themselves to specific undertakings, President Ramaphosa said.
He said that way, different partners commit to different undertakings that can drive economic growth. Government has a role to create an enabling environment through policy certainty, while business should invest more to create jobs and implement measures to reduce income inequalities.
Labour should work with employers to strengthen collective bargaining, reduce labour instability and support measures to improve productivity.
We look to civil society to mobilise South Africans from all quarters to participate in an economic recovery. South Africa has demonstrated at critical moments in our history the value of cooperation among social partners to tackle intractable problems.
Mining Charter should stimulate the sector’s growth
The President said, meanwhile, that consultations on the Mining Charter should ensure that mining in the country becomes a sunrise industry. He said over the course of the next few months, government will be engaging with stakeholders in the mining industry to develop a new Mining Charter for South Africa.
This follows an agreement between government, the industry and other stakeholders to suspend legal action pending further consultations on the charter.
“This needs to form part of a broader undertaking by all social partners to ensure that mining is indeed a sunrise industry that benefits all South Africans. Mining needs, in particular, to contribute to the growth of the economy.
“It needs to fundamentally change the living conditions of affected communities and ensure that they are active participants in the process of transformation.
President Ramaphosa said fundamental transformation of ownership and management of the mining industry is necessary not only to promote equity, but also to enable the industry to develop in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
“While some progress has been made, there is a need to accelerate the transfer of ownership of the industry to black South Africans and women. It is necessary to agree on ambitious ownership targets that can be progressively and sustainably realised.
DIRCO addresses Australia's concerns over land
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) says it is regrettable that the Australian Government did not use the available diplomatic channels to raise concerns or seek clarification on the land redistribution process in South Africa.
This follows reports attributed to Australia's Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, who said they are exploring how to bring white South African farmers to Australia on humanitarian grounds due to the land redistribution process and the violence on farms, which they say is racially charged.
We regret that the Australian government chose not to use the available diplomatic channels to raise concerns or seek clarification on the land redistribution process in South Africa.
Those channels remain open and available for all governments to engage with the South African government, DIRCO said on Wednesday.
However, the department said it will engage with the Australian government on this matter.
Australia’s comments follow a recent motion passed by Parliament to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, pursuant to a resolution of the governing African National Congress (ANC).
The resolution established a Constitutional Review Committee to consider all aspects of expropriation without compensation, including the legal and economic aspects thereof.
The resolution of Parliament thus sets forth a process and the Constitutional Review Committee must report back to Parliament by 30 August 2018.
DIRCO reiterated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments that the process of land redistribution will be orderly, within South African law and taking into consideration both the social and economic impact.
The South African government has been very clear and transparent on the land reform process and the matter is now before Parliament. All stakeholders will be consulted and they are also encouraged to engage with Parliament.
There is no reason for any government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected government. That threat simply does not exist.
DIRCO called on organizations such as AfriForum to stop spreading incorrect information to sow panic and fear.