President Cyril Ramaphosa revved up South Africa's charm
offensive on the land policy debate on the eve of the Forum for Africa-China
Cooperation (Focac) summit in Beijing in China on Sunday, as the government
seeks to reverse the damage caused by US President Donald Trump's criticism of
the proposed policy on land expropriation without compensation.
Ramaphosa said the fear that had been propagated through misinformation
by opponents of the ongoing land policy debate like Trump was beginning to
subside and "people are being more rational".
He described the levels of contributions to the discussion
from individual South Africans and civil society formations as "wonderful",
saying both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had also
embraced the processes undertaken by the South African government.
'The original sin'
He said land was "the original sin" that gave
birth and rise to racial oppression and segregation in SA's former apartheid
regime "and continues to be a wound that has to be healed".
"Viable solutions are needed to ensure that all South
Africans do enjoy a right to property," he said.
Last week Trump nearly sparked a diplomatic row when he
commented on social media that he had asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "to
closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and
the large scale killing of farmers. South African government is now seizing
land from white farmers."
The tweet came after he watched a show on controversial Fox
News in which the issue was discussed.
In response, International Relations and Cooperation
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu instructed South Africa's diplomats across the globe to
embark upon a charm offensive and explain the government's position in every
Read: Trump tweet sparks charm offensive
It was expected that international trips by government would
be used to educate stakeholders about South Africa's parliamentary process with
regard to land redistribution.
"We will also make sure the message is spread during
all international visits," said department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya,
adding that Sisulu had also written to Pompeo, inviting him to South Africa to
come and assess the situation and unfolding processes for himself.
The department also warned extremist group AfriForum to
desist from disseminating false information about the country to the rest of
Ramaphosa told a breakfast session with SA businesspeople in
Beijing that South Africa would manage the land debate in the same sensible
manner that it was able to defeat apartheid when many in the world had thought
that the country was on the brink of a civil war.
'We will surprise the world again'
"South Africa will step up to the plate and resolve it
(land) like we did with apartheid. People thought we will fight and tear the
nation apart but we surprised the world and we will surprise the world again."
He said that land was an important resource which had been
reserved for only a minority in South Africa for many years and "the
majority want important resources to be released so it could play an important
role in economic growth".
Ramaphosa said it was necessary that all those representing
South Africa in Beijing speak with one voice.
He said China's attitude was that South Africa needed to
transform and change the architecture of land holdings from what it has been in
the past, but also move towards development so that solutions on the land
question contributed to economic growth and stability.
"With those considerations every problem is easy to
resolve. We have to transform property relations in our country, underpin that
with development and have in mind that whatever we do should not harm the
economy, particularly agricultural production and food security".
Ramaphosa said this "equation" had to be balanced
in a way that would position South Africa to attract investments.