JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 19 — Recommended amendment to the South Africa constitution that allows seizing land without compensation has seen South Africans divided.
The Parliament’s Joint Constitutional Review Committee last week said amending section 25 of the constitution could accelerate land reform.
It emerged on Monday that even land reform experts are not in consensus on the modalities of the distribution of land in a country where the majority of the blacks are landless.
South African Institute of Race Relations, a Johannesburg-based lobby group on land, told Xinhua on Monday that it was preparing papers to challenge the decision in court.
“We’ve to be very cautious, we lose agriculture exports and damage the balance of payment,” said Terence Corrigan, a research fellow at the Institute.
Corrigan noted that agriculture contributed immensely to the country’s domestic growth, adding that South Africa faces a huge risk if the land reform is done badly.
However, Julius Malema, leader of the opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, said “there is no going back on the land issue, justice needs to be done now…It is high time our dignity is restored, (and) we’re not asking much for our people, but land for our forefathers.”
Cas Coovadia, managing director of Banking Association South Africa, said in a telephone interview that “it is important to promote access to the formal economy by providing security of tenure for the communal land.”
The land reform fears have put South Africa’s rand on the back foot. On Monday, the local currency broke R14 to the U.S. dollar as it digested the news of vote by the lawmakers in favor of taking land without compensation last week.
“Land reform is becoming one of the key factors and it’s clear markets will remain subdued and nervous,” Timothy Stamps, a lecturer of economics at the Midrand University said, adding that the land distribution issue is expected to trigger repeated volatility in the local currency exchange rates.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is under immense pressure to speed up the distribution of land ahead of a watershed election next year.
Although the ANC is willing to embark on the land reform, it is reminded by critics of Zimbabwe’s controversial land seizures during former leader Robert Mugabe’s administration which were marred by violence and led to the economic meltdown.