S.Africa minister pushes expropriation of white farmers
6/28/2012 1:50:04 PM -
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa's agriculture minister on Thursday advocated the expropriation of white farmers, arguing that the ruling party's land reform had failed 18 years on from the end of apartheid.
The African National Congress wants to use its right to seize land, with compensation, ending a policy of only buying land from willing sellers it argues has been costly and too slow at correcting one of apartheid's worst ills.
"The content for us on land reform is absolutely clear: the willing buyer-willing seller principle of land reform must go," Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told the SAFM state-owned radio.
The sensitive land issue is one of the key topics at the ANC's policy conference which will put forward positions to a national year-end meeting.
"The dramatic watershed decision will be that expropriation within the constitution must happen, we cannot continue with willing buyer-willing seller," said Joemat-Pettersson on the sidelines on the third day of the meeting.
Unlike neighbouring Zimbabwe where farm seizures sent the economy into a tailspin, South Africa has so far ruled out land grabs and stuck to buying up farms but criticised pricing which it says favours the seller.
The constitution, introduced after the fall of white minority rule, gives the state the right to expropriate if a compensation is paid..
"There's no need for us to change the constitution," said Joemat-Pettersson.
The ANC's land reform discussion document lists expropriation in line with the constitution as an option, and also proposes a land valuer that would look at compensation.
Joemat-Pettersson said the same call was made five years ago at the party's national conference.
Land is a highly emotive subject in South Africa where ownership remains skewed in starkly visible patterns inherited from apartheid when the majority black population was denied land in former whites-only areas.
The government has admitted that its lagging post-apartheid land reforms have also largely failed, with only 10 percent of farm handovers productive, forcing a bail-out programme for collapsing farms handed to black recipients that teams them with mentors or corporate partners.
Lack of support to new farmers is highlighted by the ANC in its discussion document on land as one of the key problems behind the struggling farms.