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Land Expropriation: Glimmer Of Hope For Black, Poor South Africans

Land distribution in South Africa has, over the decades, been a subject for debate as ownership of the important resource remains skewed. The inequality of land ownership implanted by the dominated white leadership during the Apartheid rule today puts the majority blacks on the disadvantage end given that 73 per cent of the farm land is owned by the minority white farmers. This is the disequilibrium the new South Africa’s leadership, under President Cyril Ramaphosa, and his African National Congress (ANC) is poised to amend Article 25 of the country’s Constitution to expropriate land without compensation to the owners. The ANC in a constitutional trail move targets 139 private farmers. President Ramaphosa while explaining the importance of national land reform, said “Land is an asset that people want to have in their hands so that they can work this asset. We’re going to embark on an agricultural revolution that’s going to empower our people to work land effectively.” The President urged business which owns land to be a part of the solution – willing participants in uplifting the disenfranchised, landless South Africans. The inequality represented in land ownership cannot be ignored. According to a land audit by farm lobbying group Agri SA, whites own almost three-quarters of South Africa’s agricultural land; this in a country where white South Africans account for just 8 per cent of the total population. This imbalance forms the basis for the ANC’s proposed land reform, aimed at wholesale land redistribution benefiting black citizens. Interestingly, the World Bank is in support of the South African land reforms. The bank, hardly known for being radical, identifies the skewed distribution of land and productive assets as one of the five key constraints. Paul Noumba Um, World Bank’s country Director for South Africa said in an interview with Quartz Africa that “We argue for the strengthening of the administrative capacity for land reform, including restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. Our understanding is that tenure reform in the former homelands is particularly important for reducing poverty. Many poor South Africans live in their former homelands where land is still communal.” As the ANC prepares to table the land expropriation bill to the National Assembly for examination and possible adoption, the move heralds a glimmer of hope for the majority black and poor South Africans who have been living in poverty while the minority whites live in opulence. Though President Ramaphosa has denied claims that the land was going to be nationalised and rented, his move still faces stiff opposition from some quarters who want to maintain the status quo of disparaging inequality in land ownership in the country.

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