Cyril Ramaphosa says land reform is key to national unity
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday urged greater progress in land redistribution for the sake of national unity, saying not enough had been done since the end of apartheid.
"Without the redistribution of land, we will not build a united South Africa. Without giving the poor the means to productively farm the land, we will not defeat poverty," said Ramaphosa as he addressed a key 2019 election issue.
"We need to acknowledge that the lack of progress in land reform can be attributed to a great extent to weaknesses in the institutions responsible for effecting our polices, to inconsistencies in legislation, to misguided interventions and to a misallocation of resources," he told the opening session of a two-day policy workshop of the ruling African National Congress.
Ramaphosa told the gathering in the Johannesburg suburb of Boksburg there was a need "to undo a grave historical injustice" that he has vowed to get to grips with since taking over from Jacob Zuma three months ago.
"To have placed 87% of the land into ownership hands of a white minority and only 13% being made available to the black majority was a clear act that was meant to stunt the economic prospects of the country," Ramaphosa said.
"Like all other economic resources in this country, it has historically been employed to serve the interests of a narrow section of society." While noting the need also "to pay attention to other challenges, such as corruption and mismanagement" Ramaphosa stressed that "our responsibility is to ensure that we have a comprehensive, coherent and sustainable programme for land reform".
"This workshop needs to provide direction on how we use this mechanism most effectively to advance land reform," an overriding priority for the ANC ever since Nelson Mandela took office in 1994 as democracy swept aside the apartheid system.
The ANC will over the course of the weekend debate how to effect land expropriation without compensation, a matter of deep concern for whites.
In February, lawmakers decided by a large majority to set up a commission tasked with making constitional changes to that end.
A quarter of a century after the end of apartheid South Africa remains a country of deep inequality along racial lines.