White South Africans still own almost two-thirds of the country's land. But President Cyril Ramaphosa's government hopes to transfer 30 percent of the land back to black owners by 2030 in a fast redistribution process.

Cyril Ramaphosa says he was committed
Cyril Ramaphosa says he was committed "to a comprehensive land reform programme that corrects the historical injustices of land dispossession". ( Reuters Archive )

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to power last month, vowed on Wednesday to "escalate the pace" of redistributing land from wealthy whites to poorer blacks.

Land ownership is a sensitive subject in South Africa, 24 years after the end of apartheid rule, and Ramaphosa warned the issue would "implode" unless it was addressed quickly.

"We must – given the history we have had – work with urgency to significantly and sustainably escalate the pace of land reform," Ramaphosa told parliament.

"If we do not do so, this problem that has stayed with us as a nation for hundreds of years … will implode in our hands.

"This is the historic task that we have as South Africans to address this question once and for all."

TRT World's Melanie Rice reports from Cape Town.

'We will not allow land invasions'

Ramaphosa, an anti-apartheid trade unionist who became a multi-millionaire businessman, faces growing frustration among landless blacks over the lack of change since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

Land reform is set to be a key battleground in the 2019 general election, and the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party has encouraged supporters to seize property.

But Ramaphosa warned against illegal occupation.

"We cannot have a situation where we allow land grabs because that is anarchy," he said. "We will not allow land grabs, we will not allow land invasions."

The ruling African National Congress party has backed expropriation of land without compensation, and lawmakers last month backed a motion that could lead to constitutional changes over land reform.

Frustration at sluggish pace of reforms

Since parliament endorsed a motion to change the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation late last month, people are frustrated with the sluggish pace of land reform seizing land outside Pretoria.

Ramaphosa has stressed that food production and security in the continent’s biggest maize producer, must not be threatened by land reform.

Fifty years ago, during apartheid, Raymond Koopstadt watched his grandmother being forcibly removed from her home.   

Today the former gardener and teacher owns a square kilometre of land in the Ceres fruit farming region outside Cape Town. 

"It's a valuable asset that commercial farmers bring to the party which black farmers can utilise to come up to their level. To me, it's an elevation that should take place," said Koopstadt. 

Poor black to benefit from reforms

White South Africans still own almost two-thirds of the country's land. 

The government's target is to transfer 30 percent of the land back to black owners by 2030.

South Africa has a history of colonial conquest and dispossession that pushed the black majority into crowded urban townships and rural reserves.

It has worried some economists and farming groups, which have warned of a potentially devastating impact on the agricultural sector.

Source: TRT World