On Tuesday, South Africa’s Parliament voted to move forward a potential constitutional amendment that would allow the government to confiscate white-owned land without offering any form of compensation in return.
Frequently referred to as “land expropriation without compensation,” the motion was brought forward by Julius Malema, according to the Australian news site news.com.au. Malema heads the Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical South African socialist party. The motion passed by a substantial margin of 241 votes for and 83 against.
“The time for reconciliation is over. Now is the time for justice,” Malema said in favor of the motion. “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.”
South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, also supported the motion, with amendments. In fact, Ramaphosa, who assumed power earlier this month following Jacob Zuma’s ouster, made land expropriation “a key pillar of his policy platform,” news.com.au writes.
[African National Congress] deputy chief whip Dorries Eunice Dlakude said the party “recognizes that the current policy instruments, including the willing-buyer willing-seller policy and other provisions of Section 25 of the Constitution may be hindering effective land reform.”
ANC rural affairs minister Gugile Nkwinti added, “The ANC unequivocally supports the principle of land expropriation without compensation. There is no doubt about it, land shall be expropriated without compensation.”
While the overwhelming majority of the South African Parliament members support moving the motion for land expropriation forward, it’s been met with vehement opposition from a handful of parties: the Democratic Alliance; Freedom Front Plus, which represents white Afrikaners; COPE; and the African Christian Democratic Party.
Pieter Groenewald, leader of the Freedom Front Plus party, warned that seizing land from white landowners would lead to “unforeseen consequences that is not in the interest of South Africa.”
The sentiment was put more forcefully by Ernst Roets, deputy chief executive of Afriforum, a minority-rights (read: white South African rights) organization.
Roets said that the motion violated a 1994 agreement in which the ANC promised that the interests of minorities would be protected postapartheid.
In a statement, Roets said that the motion was “based on a distorted image of the past” and was “nothing more than racist theft”—kind of like colonization, one supposes.
He went on to say that it wasn’t true that “white people who own land necessarily obtained it by means of oppression, violence or forced removals.” Apparently there was a huge “buy one, get 71 percent more of South Africa’s total farmland” sale that we missed in the history books.
Critics of the move cite the Zimbabwe government’s purge of white landowners as an example of why the policy won’t work. As Quartz notes, Zimbabwe is currently looking into ways that it can compensate the dispossessed white, former commercial farmers whose land was seized by the government 18 years ago. But supporters argue that land expropriation is necessary for land reform and is different from Zimbabwe’s “land grabs.”
A special committee will review the constitution to make the necessary amendments, with a report due back to lawmakers on the proposed changes by Aug. 30.