Ramaphosa assessing Zimbabwe land reforms as South Africa crafts new agrarian policy

Zimbabwean commercial farmer Tommy Bayley rides an old bicycle ahead of war veterans and villagers, who invaded his farm at Danbury Park outside the capital Harare, in this file picture taken April 8, 2000. REUTERS/Howard Burditt/Files

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa says his government is assessing Zimbabwe’s land reform program and other models in an effort to implement sound agrarian reforms in the South Africa.

Speaking in Harare on Saturday where he met his counterpart, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Ramaphosa said there is on-going dialogue in South Africa on the land reforms.

“… There is dialogue and debate in the nation on how we can deal with the issue of land and clearly in the course of doing so we are also going to be looking at those in the region and in the world who have dealt with the question of land and how best they have done so.

“So we are going to be drawing some examples, some lessons from Zimbabwe and a number of other countries. Our debate and discussion is going to continue until it matures to a very firm position which will then be adopted by our national parliament. So, right now it’s an exciting moment in our country and we have actually said to South Africa they should not be fearful. They should not be filled with great anxiety. We are involved in a very enriching process of debating a matter like land like we did when as we moved towards ending apartheid.”

Ramaphosa said there are expectations that the debate on land would result in the adoption of a sound land policy in South Africa.

“Discussions on ending apartheid were extensive, they were rich and they ended with a very good outcome and likewise on land I think we will have a good outcome which will unite the nation.”

The South Africa parliament had a heated debate on land a couple of days ago in which the opposition indicated that Ramaphosa’s government is trying to come up with agrarian reforms similar to Zimbabwe’s land reform program, which left thousands of white commercial farmers stranded.

Some critics have over the years blames the land program for decimating Zimbabwe’s agricultural output following the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms by local people linked to the ruling Zanu PF party.

Ramaphosa warned last Sunday that land invasions would not be tolerated as the ruling African National Congress moves to change the constitution to expropriate property without compensation.

Land remains an emotive issue in South Africa and most of it remains in white hands over two decades after apartheid’s demise, despite government programmes aimed at redistribution to narrow glaring racial disparities in ownership.

Ramaphosa replaced Jacob Zuma last month as president after Zuma, whose administration was marred by scandal and missteps, was forced from office by the ANC.

As the call for land expropriation intensifies, Australia’s home affairs minister has reportedly instructed his department to consider fast-tracking the visa applications of white South African farmers who want to escape the “horrific circumstances” they are forced to endure in their home country.

Peter Dutton’s order came after an Austrialian media house ran an explosive article alleging that white farmers in South Africa are being murdered, tortured and having their land forcibly seized.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Dutton cited the “horrific circumstances” of land seizures as a reason for Australia to give white SA farmers preferential treatment.

The issue of land expropriation without compensation has been a hot topic in SA and abroad after Parliament gave the go-ahead for Section 25 of the Constitution to be amended to give effect to the ANC government’s policy of expropriating land without compensation.

According to a land audit by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform last year, whites own 72% of SA’s farm and agricultural land, with coloureds coming in at 15% and blacks at 4%.

Social media users condemned Dutton’s statements, with some calling out Australia on its own human rights record.