South African President Defends Land Policy: ‘This Is No Land Grab’

Cyril Ramaphosa (Gulshan Khan / AFP / Getty)
Gulshan Khan / AFP / Getty

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has written an op-ed in the Financial Times defending his country’s proposed new “expropriation without compensation” policy on land reform after criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump last week.

In the op-ed, reprinted in South Africa’s Business Day, Ramaphosa argues that the redistribution of land would increase the profitability of its use — though he declines to show how, if so, the market would not redistribute land by itself.

He also attempts to reassure investors that South Africa had learned from the mistakes of other countries — i.e. Zimbabwe, where so-called “land reform” destroyed the economy — and that it would still protect private property rights:

Among the greatest obstacles to growth is the severe inequality between black and white South Africans. For the South African economy to reach its full potential, it is therefore necessary to significantly narrow gaps in income, skills, assets and opportunities.

That is why the government has embarked on a process of accelerated land reform and why South Africans are currently engaged in an intense debate over the prospect of expropriation of land without compensation as one among several measures to achieve this reform. Unfortunately, several commentators have confined their engagement on this matter to soundbites and not to the substance.

For decades, the country’s assets — its land, its minerals, its human resources, its enterprises — have been owned, controlled and managed in a way that has prevented the extraction of their full value. Our intention is to unlock the economic potential of land. Without the recognition of the property rights of all our people, we will not overcome inequality, and without giving the poor the means to productively farm the land, we will not defeat poverty.

This is no land grab; nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property. The ANC has been clear that its land reform programme should not undermine future investment in the economy or damage agricultural production and food security. The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. SA has learnt from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.

Read Ramaphosa’s full op-ed here.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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