British lawmaker Andrew Bridger confronted the head of the UK government Theresa May during the Prime Minister's Questions session, insisting that she should stand up against the South African president and his plans to expropriate white farmers’ land.
“Will she join me and also condemn the South African Parliament who is currently taking powers to seize land from their own citizens, without compensation and solely based on the colour of their skin? This is not only wrong, it is also risking putting another African country from a bread basket into a basket case", the MP said, addressing the prime minister.
Responding to the call, she claimed that they recognised the concern regarding the land reform in South Africa. She reassured British lawmakers that President Cyril Ramaphosa had promised that “violent and illegal land seizures will not be tolerated”, as they discussed the matter during her visit to South Africa this August.
"He has also consistently said that the process should be orderly, within South African laws, and take into consideration both the social and economic impact. We want to see a process that is fair and process that, while it recognises the need to deliver on the land reform, does that in a way that is fair to all South African citizens", May stated in the Parliament.
White farmers in South Africa could reportedly be forced to give up their own land in line with a constitutional go-ahead for land expropriation without compensation already in 2019. A relevant amendment to section 25 of the country's constitution was approved by the parliament in November.
Lawmakers have established a committee that is due to hammer out a legal amendment to section 25 of the constitution and present it early next year. Right now, the constitution's section 25 stipulates "just and equitable" payment, which reflects "an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected".
The looming constitutional changes will specifically allow the government to make land grabs from farmers without paying them any compensation. The constitutional changes have been pushed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has repeatedly insisted that the constitution should be "more explicit" on land expropriation by the government.
In August, he pledged that South Africa's governing African National Congress would "finalise a proposed amendment" to the constitution in a measure which he described as "critically important" to the country's economy.
An estimated 200 white-owned farms have reportedly been earmarked by the South African government to be handed over to black farmers, News24 reported, citing the head of the African National Congress, Gwede Mantashe. AfriForum, a lobby group which mainly represents white South Africans, says that it has obtained a list of 195 farms which the government plans to seize, although the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has denied the claim, saying there is “no truth to this document”.
More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a major irritant, as the government has been slow to transfer land to the country’s black majority as white South Africans, who make up less than 10 percent of the country’s population, own more than 70% of agricultural land.
Meanwhile, civil rights activists and social media commentators have recently raised the alarm about more killings of farmers. The Democratic Alliance (DA), which is currently in opposition, has accused the ANC of “sitting idle” while such attacks “escalate”. They blamed South African police for not doing enough, claiming that police forces in rural areas are under-resourced. Meanwhile, in 2016-17, 52 murders were carried out per day in South Africa.
“Attacks on anyone who lives on or visits a farm – have increased once again. The attacks are carefully planned, and without exception include violence, and frequent torture of the most horrific kinds. Even children are mercilessly targeted”, DA MP Diane Kohler Barnard said, cited by SA News.
At the same time, a South African civil rights group, AfriForum, has accused the country’s government of neglecting persecution of minorities.