July 25, 2019 / 7:27 AM / a month ago

South African committee could get March 2020 deadline for land reform

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A draft motion likely to be passed by South African lawmakers would give a new parliamentary committee until March 2020 to report back on proposed constitutional changes that would allow expropriation of land without compensation.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has pledged to accelerate land reform, an emotive issue in South Africa and a source of frustration for many voters.

Twenty-five years after the end of apartheid, when millions among the black majority were dispossessed of their land by the white minority, housing conditions and land ownership remain vastly unequal.

Last year, the ANC proposed a controversial constitutional amendment that would allow the government to seize land without compensation, but the process has stalled.

Thursday’s draft motion by the ANC’s chief whip in parliament proposed a new committee be established to “initiate and introduce legislation amending section 25 of the Constitution” dealing with property.

It would give the committee, consisting of 11 voting members of the National Assembly, six of whom are ANC members and rest from opposition parties, until March 31, 2020 to report back.

The draft motion pushes further into the future a reform that has become a hot-button issue in South African politics.

Wide public support has put pressure on the ANC to follow through but the land question has drawn criticism from commercial farmers and opposition politicians who warn it will scare off investors and potentially harm food production.

But Ramaphosa, who has described land dispossession as the “original sin”, has sought to allay any fears and said plans to accelerate land reform will not hurt food security nor damage the struggling economy.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Catherine Evans

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