EYet another blow for President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC, the party in power! The land reform bill dear to the South African leader, who had pledged to correct what are considered injustices linked to the dispossession of land during apartheid, was rejected Tuesday (December 7) by Parliament. The issue of land redistribution, with or without compensation, is a subject that divides and fascinates debates in South Africa.
The bill discussed in parliament provided for the state’s expropriation, without compensation, of land majority owned by white South Africans for the benefit of the black majority. In 1994, the state thought to solve the problem by establishing a system of sale and purchase of agricultural land on a voluntary basis. He bought millions of hectares to redistribute them to black populations, but barely a quarter of requests for land allocation were met.
Two opposing views
The proposed amendment to the Constitution did not win a two-thirds majority among the 400 deputies. It was rejected by 204 votes in favor and 145 against. A quarter of a century after the fall of the racist regime and the first democratic elections in 1994, three quarters of the country’s agricultural land is still in the hands of the white community, which represents only 8% of the 59 million inhabitants. A representative committee has worked in recent years on this modification of the law aimed at “remedying an inhuman crime, a crime against the African majority”, said before the vote the spokesperson for the ANC, the party in power history. , Mathole Motshekga. But Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress has been opposed from all sides. The first opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), seen as a party of whites, claimed that the project violated property rights and created uncertainty. “This is not what the country needs in this time of economic slump due to the Covid pandemic,” said Annelie Lotriet, DA. Moreover, the party does not hesitate to raise the specter of the Zimbabwean case to evoke the economic disaster which arose in the country of Robert Mugabe after the wave of expulsions of white farmers in the early 2000s.
At the other end of the spectrum, the radical Party of Fighters for Economic Freedom (EFF) led by Julius Malema, which tirelessly agitates in front of its predominantly black electorate the promise of expropriations without compensation, has also rejected a project of law which, according to him, does not go far enough. “We want the state to be the custodian of the land,” he said. The project had also raised concerns among investors and companies, especially in the mining sector, despite Cyril Ramaphosa’s promises to spare them.
Find other ways and means
However, according to land law specialist at advocacy group Legal Resources Center Wilmien Wicomb, the chapter is far from over. A separate expropriation bill is under consideration in parliament and is expected to be voted on next year. “It’s actually much more important,” says Mme Wicomb. This text will allow the State to expropriate and to know in which case it may not pay compensation. Another proposal on land redistribution is also under consideration. “We are working to ensure that the people of this country have equitable access to land, as unequal and biased models of land ownership cannot last,” Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told AFP.
Emergency on the economic front
For now, the country must grapple with an economy stifled by uncertainty over Covid and months of health restrictions. There is also the impact of the massive destruction that took place during the unprecedented riots in July, with a contraction in 3e quarter, the first in a year. GDP fell back to 2016 levels and “some of the gains that the country had made since the severe impact of Covid-19 on the economy in the second quarter of 2020” are lost, according to a statement.
South Africa was already in recession when in March 2020 one of the strictest lockdowns imposed in the world slammed many sectors. The economy, which had experienced a record contraction of 6.4% in 2020, had however rebounded faster than expected during the first half of this year and the authorities were betting on growth of 5.1% in 2021.
But, in July, the country experienced an unprecedented wave of riots and looting in Johannesburg and in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (east). Hundreds of businesses have been set on fire, destruction that will have an economic impact “in the long term,” Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana warned before Parliament in November.
The violence left more than 350 dead and damage estimated at more than 1.5 billion euros. Initially triggered by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, they were also a sign of a tense social and economic climate in one of the most unequal countries in the world, plagued by unemployment.
Over the same period, the official unemployment rate reached 34.9%. The most promising sectors showed a drop in production: trade, restaurants and hotels fell by 5.5% while the manufacturing industry contracted by 4.2%. Agriculture plunged 13.6%, its biggest drop in five years. Another bad sign, household spending also fell by 2.4%. “Looting and the closure of shops in KwaZulu-Natal during the unrest resulted in food shortages. Many consumers have struggled to find basic necessities, ”said the statistical agency.
In July, the country officially the most affected on the continent by the virus had also stepped up health measures to cope with a wave of infections. Today, South Africa is entering a new wave of pandemic with the appearance of the Omicron variant. There are still many uncertainties surrounding the nature of this mutant form of Covid-19, which is feared to be more contagious. The announcement, on November 25, by a team of South African scientists of the detection of a new variant caused a worldwide panic: many countries have closed their borders, putting southern Africa in a few hours out of the world. and threatening to deal another hard blow to its economy, especially tourism in the middle of the southern summer. In addition, recurring power cuts due to aging power plants and poorly maintained by a public company with dying finances have aggravated the economic difficulties for years.