Ramaphosa: Land reform won't come at cost of economy

Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa said his administration is considering new incentives in a bid to woo R1.2trn in new investment and will tackle the thorny issue of land ownership without endangering economic growth.

Since succeeding Jacob Zuma as president two months ago, Ramaphosa has been on a drive to convince investors of his commitment to reverse years of economic stagnation, policy uncertainty and the plunder of state funds.

While he’s fired some of Zuma’s ministers and replaced the boards of several troubled state-owned enterprises (SOEs), his bid to sell SA as an investment destination has been hindered by the ruling party’s decision to back land seizures.

Land reform should be an “inclusive process” and can contribute to economic growth, Ramaphosa said on Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London, where he’s attending a Commonwealth Summit and met with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II.

More than two decades after the end of apartheid, whites still own most of South Africa's profitable farms, and about 95% of the country’s wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population.

The ANC decided in December to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. A parliamentary committee is considering the changes and is due to report back by August 31.

Land audit

A 2017 land audit by farmers’ lobby group AgriSA found that the government and racial groups who were discriminated against under whites-only rule owned 26.7% of SA’s agricultural land in 2016, up from 14.9% in 1994. A separate government audit found that whites owned 72% of farmland.

“We want round-table dialogue, a full discussion on the question of land because we want the protection of property rights, not to be a protection of property rights to a few people only, like it has been in the past,” he said.

“Our economy has also been constrained by the fact that the land, which is a powerful resource, has just been reserved for a few. Let us share the land. We will do everything around the land question within the parameters of our Constitution.”

Ramaphosa said he was getting positive feedback from investors, and recent gains in the value of the rand indicate improved sentiment. The president said he was sticking to his target of 3% growth for this year, which is more than double the 1.4% forecast by the World Bank.

The rand extended its gains as Ramaphosa spoke, strengthening 0.3% to R11.9462 to the dollar by 15:00 in Johannesburg.

The currency has advanced 10% since Ramaphosa was elected as ANC president in December and almost 20% since the start of November, the world’s best performer over that period.

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