Contributed by Ben Wilson
South African president Jacob Zuma has called on lawmakers to help seize white-owned land without compensation.
Speaking to parliament, he called for unity between black parties.
Zuma’s comments echo those of his rival Julius Malema, who said earlier this week: ‘So, we are saying black people, all of us must unite so that we can change the constitution so that we can expropriate land without compensation”.
The land question has been fundamental to the building of a post-Apartheid era that ended in 1994. Most of the black population lives on the land. Many of them had been displaced. A hallmark of the African National Congress (ANC) led movement, of which Zuma is the current leader, had always been land redistribution.
This distribution has not progressed as promised. A significant cause is that the old-time white large scale landowners still have a large part of the country in their hands and have failed to surrender any of it. Unless this sticking point is overcome, existing widespread poverty cannot be overcome.
For a long time since the period of open hostility, the ANC government has stuck to the agreement signed by both sides. An important part of this agreement was a transition period that incorporated significant changes, including land redistribution.
In recent times, there has been growing disquiet over the failure of the other side to implement its side of the deal.
Last year the ANC government passed a new expropriation of land bill and criticised by some opposition parties and farming groups. The bill gave the government power to expropriate land in the “public interest”.
“The passing of the bill by parliament is historic and heralds a new era of intensified land distribution programme to bring long-awaited justice to the dispossessed majority of South Africans,” the ANC said in a statement.
Zuma has now said: ‘It is now time for action. The time for talking, writing and analysis is over’.
What happens now is going to depend on the response of the landowners and the political forces that represent them. Zuma has warned of the risk of a new racial war, if change does not come about.