South Africa’s National Assembly passed a motion Tuesday to allow the government to expropriate land without compensation, fulfilling the wishes of radicals and black nationalists, but raising fears for the fate of the country’s white minority, as well as the future of its agricultural sector.
The motion was introduced by the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and passed, 241-83, with support from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
The South African constitution, negotiated in the mid-1990s as part of the transition from apartheid to non-racial democracy, includes a provision for the protection of property rights. Section 25 of the Bill of Rights (Chapter 2) provides that “Property may be expropriated only . . . subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.”
However, the South African government seems prepared to ignore or amend that provision. The motion that passed Tuesday will be referred to a committee to review its constitutionality before becoming law.
Land ownership is a deeply emotive issue in South Africa, where the colonial and apartheid governments seized black-owned land and reserved most arable land for whites. The post-apartheid government set a target of redistributing 30% of the land.
However, redistribution has been slow — not just because of constitutional protections and the cost of land, but also because of decreased interest in farming among black South Africans. The government also provides little support for black farmers.
The new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has raised hopes for economic reform, but his support for expropriation without compensation, despite the cautionary example of Zimbabwe to the north, has caused alarm.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.