We are not going to take your land: Ramaphosa to investors

 ·16 May 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed investors’ concerns over land expropriation without compensation.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs investor conference on Wednesday (15 May), Ramaphosa spoke on government’s strategy with land expropriation without compensation, trying to allay fears that private property rights would be put at risk.

The president told investors that government would not invite foreign investment to the country and then take their land – calling such a move nonsensical – but he said that the issue of land reform had to be addressed.

He said that the topic, which has been making headlines since it was adopted at the ANC’s 2017 policy conference, has brought a lot of ‘interesting interpretations’ to the fore.

However, Ramaphosa stressed that the government was looking for a fully integrated solution with participation from all sectors, which will lead to something that’s good for the country.

“We will ensure that the process of land reform takes place in an orderly manner, in a manner where everyone will participate,” he said.

“I’ve said it before – foreign investors have nothing to fear; there’s no way we can invite foreign investors to our country and say ‘come, invest’ and tomorrow we take your land away.

“That is not going to happen. That is not sensible. It’s not something that any sensible person does.”

Working together with the EFF in Parliament, the ANC managed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to start the process to make changes to South Africa’s constitution, which will more explicitly allow for the government to take land without compensating the owners.

Following the 2019 elections, the ANC’s 57.5% and the EFF’s 10.8% provide for another two-thirds majority (68.3%) to ensure this process continues.

Clarifying the intent behind the change, Ramaphosa said that South Africa would pass the Expropriation Act in Parliament, which is a law the country has always had, which will now be “revamped to be in-line with current imperatives”.

The new laws, he said, would identify the types of land that can be looked at for the expropriation process, and the specific circumstances under which it can happen.

He added that South Africa has large parcels of land which are owned by state-owned enterprises, municipalities and over government branches, and that’s what the land the new laws would focus on.

“In urban areas, people want land to build homes, and a lot of that land is owned by municipalities and SOEs – we’re going to be focused on that.”

“Everything will be done in terms of the constitution and the rule of law, he said. “There will never be land grabs. We will not allow land grabs to happen.”

Focus on the economy

Speaking on the wider economy, Ramaphosa said that government needs to start focusing on specific sectors to help grow the economy, instead of looking at the broader market.

He admitted that the country’s regulatory framework has been impeding a lot of business activity – particularly for small and medium businesses. He said permits, visas and other impediments and constraints have been made known to him and other government departments.

He wants the strategy moving forward to be focused on removing these obstacles for business.

Ramaphosa said that all of South Africa’s issues revolve around one problem – low economic growth – and in the coming weeks, he will announce a reduced, restructured cabinet, and fill it with leaders who will work towards what is best for the economy, and the country.

“We are going to be a focused on generating more economic growth and creating jobs – so the structure that will be in place will speak to that,” he said.

Read: Here’s where the rand could go after Ramaphosa chooses his cabinet

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