Push for constitution change to allow for taking land without compensation

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress agreed to seek a change in the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, provided it doesn’t affect the economy and food production.

The party agreed to the proposal in a debate that “nearly collapsed” its five yearly conference, Enoch Godongwana, the head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee, told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Delegates didn’t agree on a deadline for the change and the policy must not affect other sectors of the economy, he said.

“There should be no illegal occupation of land,” Godongwana said. “That is part of the resolution we have taken.”

South Africa ruling party has sought to accelerate redistributing land to the country’s black majority from the more affluent white minority but is deeply divided on how to achieve that, with President Jacob Zuma seeking radical policies as his term as national leader comes to an end.

Cyril Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s preferred candidate and ex-wife, to become ANC president this week.

The rand reversed gains of as much as 1.1% against the dollar and was 0.3% weaker at R12.74 by 22h15. in Johannesburg.

Farm Debt

Two-thirds of lawmakers need to approve a change in the constitution. The ANC holds 62% of the seats in parliament and the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, which backs the proposal, has 6%.

White farmers own almost three-quarters of South Africa’s agricultural land, according to a land audit by farm lobbying group Agri SA published last month.

The amount of land owned by the government and racial groups who were disadvantaged under white-minority rule rose to 26.7% of South Africa’s agricultural land in 2016, from 14.9% in 1994, according to the audit.

Farm debt to South Africa’s commercial banks was about R89 billion ($7 billion) in December 2016, according to data from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Read: Ramaphosa dances cautiously to the radical economic transformation tune

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Push for constitution change to allow for taking land without compensation