South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned the UN General Assembly that his government is planning to implement controversial reforms to correct racially skewed land-ownership patterns.
According to the President, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is currently holding consultations on the reform that had previously evoked widespread outrage across the international community.
“Nelson Mandela’s vision continues to guide us as we seek to improve the lives of our people in many ways,” Ramaphosa said. “We have started a comprehensive dialogue on the question of land reforms, as we seek ways to guarantee the land is shared by all.”
Earlier this year, the ANC proposed a constitutional amendment that would give the government a legal right to seize and redistribute farmlands without any compensation for owners. The draft reform triggered heated international debate along with multiple media reports of alleged violence against South African white farmers, including murders.
According to government data, more than 77 percent of South African farms and agricultural holdings are owned by white citizens with only four percent of lands belonging to black South Africans. The overall population of country is comprised by nine percent white people and 76 percent black people.
The reform has also raised deep concern among international investors, while the country’s ruling party has sought to reassure that the move will be lawful and will not threaten stability. Earlier this month, agricultural confidence and land prices in South Africa declined to the lowest in more than two years, according to the Agbiz/IDC agribusiness confidence index.
Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Ramaphosa announced plans to spend 50 billion rand ($3.52 billion) of “reprioritized expenditure and new project-level funding” to turn around South Africa’s economy.
The president also commented on Donald Trump’s America First policy, saying that no country can prosper at the expense of millions of others. “We must take collective responsibility for the development of all nations,” Ramaphosa added.