Land reform: Wake up and smell the coffee, Ramaphosa tells MPs

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Gallo Images)
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Gallo Images)

Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday urged members of the opposition not to question the validity of the land debate currently engrossing South Africa, without making a meaningful contribution to settling it.

Ramaphosa was replying to questions from MPs at the National Assembly. His appearance consisted largely of outwitting questions from the Democratic Alliance benches and neutralising the Economic Freedom Fighters’ efforts at ruling the roost.

Parliament has called for submissions from the general public ahead of its work in investigating the need to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

African National Congress MP Vincent Smith told Fin24 on Tuesday that the legislature has received more than 140 000 submissions on this matter and would likely need more time and preparation than it has originally expected.

Ramaphosa said MPs must not believe that land reform and economic stability are mutually exclusive. 

“For South Africa to grow faster and build a more transformed economy, land reform is necessary and urgent. We will advance the three elements (of) redistribution, restitution and security of tenure through inclusive dialogue.

Ramaphosa said expropriation will take place without harming economic development, productive agriculture and food security. He added that investors understand the importance of land reform and respect the need to pursue it while ensuring “stability, certainty and a clear, consistent message”.

“Investor roadshows internationally showed that foreign investors recognise the need for SA to find a solution to the inequitable distribution of land in the country,” said Ramaphosa.

He said Parliament should not assume that it is wiser than the people of the country, and that the discussion must take place.

'Let us allow people to heal their wounds'

“Let us allow our people to heal their wounds, express their view and to discuss this critical issue. After that process is done, we will be able to make an informed decision.

"People are saying we want this wound to heal and we should listen,” he said.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said Ramaphosa has a responsibility to ensure that the land debate is not used by politicians to sow divisions within South African society for political gains ahead of next year’s general elections.

“I must affirm the point of the wounds of our past. It is explicitly acknowledged in my party’s Constitution that we have this painful past. It should not be a matter of pitting one race against another.” 

Ramaphosa said: “Our people need housing and we need to look at housing and share living abodes. Those who don’t have houses and land must have them and that is what must happen to address this unequal past.

"If people think the issue of land will go away, wake up and smell the coffee, because the people of South Africa have made themselves clear,” he said.

Economic Freedom Fighters chief whip Floyd Shivambu said prominent members of the ANC are not speaking consistently on land reform, and that this creates confusion.

“Enoch Godongwana and Jeremy Cronin are speaking with a forked tongue on the land issue. What is happening? Are we expropriating without compensation? Are we amending the Constitution? Please speak with clarity on this matter,” Shivambu demanded.

Ramaphosa told Shivambu that the EFF brought a motion to Parliament for the amendment of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation, after the ANC adopted a resolution to the same effect in December.

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