Land reform likely under existing laws with no change to Constitution
Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to redistribute land without compensation, but analysts say changing the Constitution would alarm investors
SA looks likely to implement land redistribution under existing laws rather than by changing the Constitution following an ANC summit, in an approach more palatable to investors, analysts said on Tuesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to redistribute land without compensation, a move popular with poorer black voters ahead of an election next year.
On Monday, the ANC said it would "test the argument" that land redistribution without compensation is permitted under current laws, which would avoid the risky strategy of trying to change the Constitution.
"Ramaphosa is working hard to defuse this issue. There is a carefully calculated move to work within the current legal framework," said political analyst Daniel Silke. "Changing the Constitution over an issue that can be dealt with under current laws would be a red flag with foreign and domestic investors."
With parliamentary elections next year, accelerating land reform will help nullify the threat of the left-wing EFF, a party whose push for radical wealth redistribution is attractive to disillusioned ANC supporters.
The EFF says the Constitution must be changed to ensure radical redistribution of land and other parts of the economy from the white minority to the black majority. "The ANC has become disposed to expropriate without compensation precisely because of pressure from the EFF," said Lesiba Teffo, political analyst and a professor at the University of SA. "I think the majority of the people will be happy with a measured approach. The EFF has over-played the race card."
Some investors are concerned that the ANC’s reforms will result in white farmers being stripped of land to the detriment of the economy, although Ramaphosa has repeatedly said any changes will not compromise food security or growth.
Experts say SA will not repeat the violent land seizures seen in neighbouring Zimbabwe.