President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday there was no reason to believe that any country would impose sanctions on South Africa over plans to redistribute land to address racial disparities in ownership.
“We have no reason to believe that any country would impose sanctions on South Africa for any actions that we take, actions that are constitutional, that are lawful and consistent with international law,” Ramaphosa told parliament, while answering a question on land reform.
On Aug. 1, South Africa’s ruling party said it would push ahead with plans to amend the country’s constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision following a two-day meeting of the African
National Congress, which had earlier signalled its intention to redistribute land under the current laws.
The South African parliament in February voted in favour of a motion, brought by the radical Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the ANC, to send the matter to parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee.
Ramaphosa said the ANC would finalise a proposed amendment to the constitution that “outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected”.
Land ownership and wealth inequality are racially charged issues in South Africa, nearly three decades after the end of Apartheid.
A 2017 government audit found white people owned 72 per cent of farmland in South Africa. According to the 2011 census, there are about 4.6 million white people in South Africa, accounting for 8.9 per cent of the population.
White farmers, mainly from the Afrikaner minority, say they are victims of a co-ordinated campaign of violence intended to drive them off their land.
More than 2000 white farmers have been killed in attacks characterised by extreme brutality, rape and torture since 1994.
Civil rights group AfriForum says 84 were killed in 2017 alone.
Critics, however, say the number of so-called “plaasmoorde” pale in comparison to the overall murder rate — nearly 20,000 South Africans of all races were killed in 2017 — and that the attacks are not racially or politically motivated.
In the wake of high-profile media coverage earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton floated the idea of fast-tracked humanitarian visas for persecuted farmers, saying they faced “horrific circumstances” and needed help from a “civilised country”.
That sparked outrage from South Africa’s government, which demanded an apology.