US former president Bill Clinton and President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum panel discussion in New York, September 26 2019. Picture: BLOOMBERG
US former president Bill Clinton and President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum panel discussion in New York, September 26 2019. Picture: BLOOMBERG

President Cyril Ramaphosa says his administration will pursue plans to redistribute land to the country’s black majority and is still considering whether constitutional amendments would be necessary in order to make it easier to expropriate property without compensation.

"We are seeking to put right what was done wrong many years ago," Ramaphosa said on Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television in New York, where he has been attending the UN General Assembly. "There won’t be any mayhem, there won’t be any land grabs."

The ANC decided in December that constitutional amendments were needed to address racially skewed land ownership dating back to colonial and white-minority rule, but they should not damage the economy and agricultural production.

Property rights

Even so, the prospect of property rights being diluted has taken a toll on SA’s assets, which were already under pressure from an emerging-market sell-off, and drawn criticism from US President Donald Trump.

Ramaphosa said he met Trump on Tuesday, but they never discussed the issue and the US leader’s views were "clearly misinformed".

The expropriation debate has threatened to detract from Ramaphosa’s efforts to secure $100bn in new investment and revive an economy that has stagnated for almost a decade and dipped into recession in the second quarter.

His success will be key if the ANC is to rebuild a reputation that was badly scarred during its former leader Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred tenure, and revive its support before the 2019 elections.

Last week, Ramaphosa unveiled a "stimulus and recovery plan" aimed at spurring economic growth.

Bloomberg