South African lawmakers on Thursday voted to speed up land reform by establishing a committee that will propose constitutional changes to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
The ruling African National Congress has been under pressure to address the lingering inequities of the racist system of apartheid that ended 25 years ago. President Cyril Ramaphosa has sought to assure investors that land reform will unfold “in an orderly manner” and won’t include illegal seizures.
The long-awaited committee on one of South Africa’s most emotive issues is expected to propose the constitutional amendments by a March deadline, after which lawmakers will vote on them.
The changes are expected to be approved, as the ANC has a majority of parliament seats and the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters has demanded that land be returned to black citizens. Supporters of the changes say that a quarter-century after apartheid’s white-minority rule, land ownership patterns have hardly changed.
The ANC, which tabled Thursday’s motion, said the changes are needed to address “historic wrongs” and “further empower the majority of South Africans to be productive participants in ownership, food security and agricultural reform programs.”
The government’s previous willing-seller-willing-buyer model allowed the government to purchase land from owners but that failed as most refused to sell.
Those opposing the expropriation of land without compensation have argued that it will have devastating consequences on investor confidence and South Africa’s ailing economy. Opponents include the main opposition Democratic Alliance.