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Outrage at land expropriation proposal in South Africa

Fear of 'land grabs' as South Africa proposes land expropriation

01.03.2018
Outrage at land expropriation proposal in South Africa

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG

Groups representing white South Africans have expressed outrage at a motion adopted by the parliament this week calling for expropriation of land by the state without compensation.

‘‘We got legal title deeds of our land. We didn’t steal it,’’ Louis Meintjes, the president of the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TAU SA) told Anadolu Agency in an interview on Thursday.

He said if the motion was passed into law, it would be the downfall of South Africa.

‘‘How will people invest in South Africa without a surety that the government won’t take away their property?’’ he said.

Parliament on Tuesday adopted a motion to amend the constitution so as to allow the expropriation of land without compensation. A total of 241 MPs voted in favor of the motion, while 83 were against it.

Land is a sensitive issue in South Africa, where the majority of the natural resources remains in the hands of a few whites. Most commercial farms in the country that produce the bulk of food are also owned by whites.

‘‘I think the constitution is clear; land can be expropriated but owners must be compensated,’’ Professor Sadrack Gutto, who once led a government study on foreign ownership of land, told Anadolu Agency.

He said he believed nothing much would change in terms of the law until the matter would be taken to the constitutional review committee.

“Politicians are playing political gimmicks,” Gutto said in a telephone interview from the capital Pretoria.

The South African parliament has referred the matter to the constitutional review committee, which will consult the public and report back to the National Assembly in six months.

TAU SA’s Meintjes fears this might lead to a reduction in food production in the country as land belonging mainly to commercial farmers will be in the hands of the state.

Meanwhile, AfriForum, a civil rights organization, has threatened to launch a campaign to inform foreign investors and governments that property rights in South Africa are being threatened by the state.

“Foreign investments in South Africa will also not be safe, should plans for property expropriation without compensation be followed through,” the group, which advocates for minority rights, said in a statement on Wednesday.

AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said the campaign would be launched with a memorandum that would be sent to the embassies of countries which are trade partners of South Africa.

The majority of black South Africans lack land to cultivate crops or build their homes. They live in crowded tin houses in shanty towns across the country.

Black South Africans and some politicians often accuse white South Africans of taking their land during the colonial era. They say blacks were killed by colonialists before dispossessing them of their land.

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