UK’s May voices support for land reform as Parly withdraws ‘old’ bill

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town on Tuesday (August 28 2018). Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town on Tuesday (August 28 2018). Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Britain supports South Africa’s land reform programme provided it is carried out legally, Prime Minister Theresa May said in Cape Town on Tuesday, adding that she would discuss the issue with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The United Kingdom has for some time now supported land reform. Land reform that is legal, that is transparent, that is generated through a democratic process,” May told reporters.

“It’s an issue that I raised and discussed with President Ramaphosa when he was in London earlier this year. I’ll be talking about it with him later today.”

In his address to the SA-UK investor roundtable on Tuesday, Ramaphosa explained that the intention of the programme of accelerated land reform was to ensure that “this fundamental resource is equitably shared among all South Africans, that the agricultural sector is transformed, that urban spatial distortions are corrected and that the economic potential of the country’s land is unlocked”.

He described the debate under way on land reform should take place as “vibrant and healthy”.

“This presents us with an opportunity to strengthen the property rights of all our people, to provide certainty to investors and to our people, and to achieve consensus on a land reform programme that will contribute to economic growth, job creation and the reduction of poverty,” Ramaphosa said.

“We are determined that whatever measures we take to effect land reform do not undermine the economy.”

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, an expropriation bill passed by Parliament in 2016 enabling the state to make compulsory purchases of land to redress racial disparities in land ownership was withdrawn.

The bill – which had not been signed into law – was withdrawn to allow the ongoing process that could lead to the changing of the Constitution to pave the way for expropriation of land without compensation.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Works today said that rejecting this bill in its current form would assist and avoid running a parallel process while there was a committee of Parliament that was still busy with the possible review of section 25 of the Constitution.

“The committee is happy and hopes for a better piece of legislation that will include the inputs from South Africans across the country on the land and property question. The committee has adopted a report that recommends to the National Assembly that the current Expropriation Bill be rejected,” the chairperson of the committee, Humphrey Mmemezi, said.

Mmemezi believed that the National Assembly might deal with the matter as soon as next week. – Additional reporting by Reuters

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