President Cyril Ramaphosa told the European Parliament on Wednesday that South Africa would enact land reforms in adherence to the country’s Constitution and with respect for the human rights of all its people.
“This problem of land will be resolved through adherence to the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution,” Ramaphosa told lawmakers.
The ANC aims to change the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to address racial disparities in ownership that persist more than two decades after apartheid’s demise in 1994. The acceleration of land redistribution is a key issue ahead of the 2019 elections, and the ANC has pledged to carry out land reform in a way that does not threaten food security.
Most private land remains in the hands of the white minority more than two decades after the end of apartheid, making it a vivid symbol of wider disparities.
A senior World Bank group executive said on Wednesday that the ANC’s plans have unnerved investors.
“If you create uncertainty of some aspects of your environment, and land tenure is one of them, that is one aspect that investors will be looking at,” Sérgio Pimenta, the vice-president for the Middle East and Africa at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private investment arm, told Reuters.
“What investors are looking for is certainty,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting between the World Bank and member countries in Livingstone, a town located in Zambia south of the capital Lusaka.
The land issue is a complex issue
Sérgio Pimenta, World Bank
“Whatever the solution the government is looking at, creating an environment that is reliable, that is certain, is important.”
Public hearings on land redistribution were held earlier this year across the country, attracting large crowds and often emotional testimony.
A parliamentary committee will consider that testimony and other contributions before recommending whether or not to change the Constitution to allow land to be expropriated without compensation.
Pimenta said South Africa’s long-term economic outlook was positive. The Bank had invested about $2 billion (about R29 billion) through the IFC over the last five to six years, he said.
Africa’s most industrialised economy is struggling with ballooning debt that risks pushing its sovereign credit ratings deeper into “junk” territory. Other problems include cash-strapped state firms and a stubbornly high unemployment rate.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa’s European charm offensive included a visit to the European Union (EU) – which he hoped would strengthen bilateral relations – discussions with the president of the European parliament, Antonio Tajani, and courtesy calls on King Philippe Léopold Louis Marie of the Kingdom of Belgium and Prime Minister Charles Michel. He also received a courtesy call from the Minister-President of the government of Flanders, Geert Bourgeois.
President Ramaphosa was also expected to co-chair the South Africa-European Union Summit with the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
In his address to the EU on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said Africa could draw lessons from the European Union’s path to integration, economic and political union, and achieving social progress.
He said the EU was born out of the need to end the historic divisions on that continent, to create a firm base for the construction of a new Europe rooted in solidarity and cooperation and contribute to global peace, security and development.
African countries have similarly embarked upon a new path of peace, development and transformation, he said.
“The African Union’s Agenda 2063 provides a programme for integration and prosperity on a continent that has been racked by division, exploitation and strife,” he said.
Read Ramaphosa's full address to EU parliament below: