South Africa: the committee of experts appointed by the Presidency delivers its recommendations on the agrarian issue

In its report, the panel of specialists supports, under certain conditions, the principle of expropriation without compensation.

South Africa, the continent’s leading agricultural power ($10.6 billion in exports in 2018), has been struggling for more than 20 years with the thorny issue of land redistribution, a major legacy of Apartheid: nearly three quarters of arable land is still in the hands of the white minority, which represents only 8% of the total population. A major social issue for which the panel of experts appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa submitted its conclusions on Sunday 28 July. In their report, these specialists, who attribute « persistent inequalities to the way land is owned, managed and traded, with approaches that have never been adapted to address past injustices », argue in favour of expropriating land without compensation, but only under certain conditions such as cases of abandoned land, state-owned land, or land that has been acquired on a purely speculative basis.
The experts also propose several other avenues to promote a more equitable redistribution of land: a maximum ceiling on the surface area that an individual or company could own; a more dissuasive property tax system to discourage large landowners from owning non-productive land; the appointment of a land rights protector to fight corruption linked to land reform, or the direct monitoring of the reform by the Presidency in order to better centralize the process. These are all points that will be reviewed by Parliament, with elected representatives expected to vote on a possible amendment to the law from October onwards. As for the white farming community, which fears being dispossessed of its land, it was not long before it expressed its concerns after the document was published. « Food security will be compromised if the recommendations contained in the report of the Presidential Advisory Group on Agrarian Reform and Agriculture are implemented to the letter, » the agricultural industry association, Agri SA, expressed alarm in a statement issued on Monday by the local media.