South Africa’s ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) aims to change the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to address racial disparities in land ownership that persist more than two decades after apartheid’s demise in 1994.
The following explains some of the issues and risks involved in the plan, which President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined to parliament on Wednesday.
Spurred by the rise of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the ANC adopted a resolution in December to redistribute land to black South Africans without compensation.
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Parliament then backed an EFF motion last month seeking to change the constitution to allow for this. A committee will report back to the chamber by Aug. 30.
Together, the ANC, the EFF and other small opposition parties could muster the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional change, but it is not clear when, or if, a vote will take place.
South Africa has a history of colonial conquest and dispossession that pushed the black majority into crowded urban townships and rural reserves.
The 1913 Native Lands Act made it illegal for Africans to acquire land outside of these reserves, which became known as “Homelands”.
While blacks account for 80 percent of South Africa’s population, the homelands comprise just 13 percent of the land. They are largely controlled by tribal authorities rather ordinary residents and farmers.
Since the end of white minority rule in 1994, the ANC has followed a ‘willing-seller, willing-buyer’ model whereby the government buys white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks. Progress has been slow.
Based on a survey of title deeds, the government says blacks own 4 percent of private land, and only 8 percent of farmland has been transferred to black hands, well short of a target of 30 percent that was meant to have been reached in 2014.
AgriSA, a farm industry group, says 27 percent of farmland is in black hands. Its figure includes state land and plots tilled by black subsistence farmers in the old homelands.
Ben Cousins, a professor in Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, has noted there are no estimates on private transactions involving black farmers who have purchased land themselves, so the data is incomplete.
There has been a parallel process of ‘land claims’ by individuals or communities dispossessed under white rule, but most of the settlements have involved cash paid by the state instead of people reoccupying their land, and 87 percent of the claims have been urban.
The 17 million people who reside in the former homelands, a third of the population, are mostly subsistence farmers working tiny plots and subject to customary law.
Critics of ANC’s land policy say that instead of seizing farmland from whites, such households should be given title deeds, turning millions into property owners.
David Masondo, a member of the ANC’s Economic Transformation Committee, said last week the party was considering this, but it would face resistance from traditional leaders, a key ANC political base cultivated by former president Jacob Zuma.
A proposal by a panel headed former president Kgalema Motlanthe to dissolve the Ingonyama Trust, which controls the land in the former Zulu homeland, was condemned by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. Zwelithini is the custodian of the Trust, giving him wide powers to allocate land use.
Analysts say South Africa is unlikely to follow the route of Zimbabwe, where the seizure of white-owned farms under former president Robert Mugabe triggered economic collapse, in large part because most of the new farmers lacked capital for investment or experience with large-scale commercial agriculture.
Agriculture was the backbone of the economy and so there were ripple effects, with the undermining of property rights also shattering investor confidence.
Ramaphosa has said the policy will be undertaken in a way that does not threaten food security or economic growth and the ANC’s Masondo has said unused land will be the main target.
On Sunday Ramaphosa pointedly warned against land invasions.
Still, the risks are substantial. South Africa feeds itself and is the continent’s largest maize producer and the world’s second-biggest exporter of citrus fruits.
Agriculture accounts for less than 3 percent of national output but employs around 850,000 people accounting for 5 percent of the workforce. Threats to production would also fan food inflation, hurting lower-income households.
Wandile Sihlobo, an economist with the Agricultural Business Chamber, says the farm loan book is around 160 billion rand ($14 billion), and if farmers could not repay loans there would be ripple effects across the economy.
Analysts say the ANC wants to appeal to poorer black voters, the core of the ANC’s support, ahead of elections next year.
Ramaphosa has said he aims to resolve the issue of racial disparities in property ownership ‘once and for all’.
The EFF, headed by firebrand Julius Malema, has made expropriation of land without compensations his clarion call.
South Africa’s proportional representation system can make small parties, the EFF only has 6 percent of parliamentary seats, kingmakers in tight polls.
This was the case in 2016 when the EFF backed opposition Democratic Alliance officials to run key metropolitan areas including the capital Pretoria.
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Ghana draws African-American tourists with ‘Year of Return
US preacher Roxanne Caleb blinked away the tears as she emerged from a pitch-dark dungeon where African slaves were once held before being shipped across the Atlantic to America.
“I wasn’t prepared for this. I’m heartbroken,” she told AFP as she toured the Cape Coast slave fort on Ghana’s ocean shore.
“My mind still can’t wrap around the fact that a human being can treat another worse than a rat.”
Caleb is among the African-American visitors flocking to Ghana as it marks the “Year of Return” to remember the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in Virginia.
The West African nation is banking on the commemorations to give a major boost to the number of tourist arrivals as it encourages the descendants of slaves to “come home”.
Cape Coast Castle, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the capital Accra, is a major magnet for those visiting
The white-washed fort lined with cannons was one of dozens of prisons studding the Atlantic coast where slaves were held before their journey to the New World.
A string of prominent African-Americans have headed to the site this year to mark the anniversary since the first slave landing in 1619.
Among them was a delegation of Congressional Black Caucus led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that toured last month.
– ‘Can’t forget history’ –
For those visiting it is an emotional rite of passage.
“This has been understanding my history and my roots where I came from,” Caleb said.
“I am very thankful I came here as part of the Year of Return.”
Sampson Nii Addy, a corrections officer with the Montgomery police department in Alabama, said he and his family had found the tour an “education”.
“I think every black person needs to come around to learn history; how people were treated,” the 52-year-old told AFP.
“We can’t forget history but we can always learn something from it.”
Ghana, one of the continent’s most stable democracies, has long pitched itself as a destination for African-Americans to explore their heritage and even settle permanently.
In 2009 President Barack Obama visited with his family and paid homage at the Cape Coast Castle.
The “Year of Return” has added fresh impetus and the country is hoping it will increase visitor numbers from 350,000 in 2018 to 500,000 this year, including 45,000 African-Americans.
Kojo Keelson has spent nine years guiding tour groups around the Cape Coast Castle and says 2019 has seen a surge in interest as Ghana looks to rake in tourism revenue of $925 million (830 million euros).
“It’s like a pilgrimage. This year we’ve a lot more African-Americans coming through than the previous year,” he told AFP.
“I’m urging all of them to come home and experience and reconnect to the motherland.”
– ‘Love to come again’ –
Akwasi Awua Ababio, the official coordinating “Year of Return” events, pointed to high hotel occupancy rates as he said “enthusiasm is very high and we’ve got huge numbers coming from the US and Caribbean”.
He insisted that beyond the major economic boost, Ghana was also looking to use the new connections it is forging to convince the descendants of slaves to resettle for good and help the country develop.
“Human resource is always an asset and we need to see how we can welcome them home to utilise their expertise and networks,” the director for diaspora affairs at the presidency said.
The African American Association of Ghana brings together those who have moved to West Africa and offers help to integrate them into their new surroundings.
President Gail Nikoi praised the “Year of Return” initiative by Ghanaian leader Nana Akufo-Addo and said the country was “setting the stage for future engagements and involvement of African-Americans and other Africans from the diaspora in the development of this country.”
But she said the authorities could still be doing more to help attract arrivals and convince them to stay.
“Dialogue and engagement is the first step,” she said.
While most of those visiting Cape Coast were not thinking about settling back permanently — they said the trip had opened their eyes to both their own history and what Ghana has to offer.
“It has broadened my horizons about how we came to be here and what our ancestors went through,” said William Shaw, 57, from Montgomery.
“I would love to come again. There is a lot more to see here in Ghana… at least once in a year I’d advise African-Americans to come back to their native land and learn about their history.”
Nigeria: Woman arrested over Outrageous Viral video of her abusing a child
Police in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos have arrested a woman filmed abusing a child and then locking him in a caged kennel with dogs.
It is not clear when the footage was shot, but it went viral on Twitter earlier this month.
In the video clip, a woman is seen beating a boy, stripped to his waist, with a belt. She then drags him into an empty kennel and locks it before walking away. Two dogs can be seen in other neighbouring kennels.
The video caused outrage on social media, where shocked users offered rewards to anyone that could track down the woman.
On Thursday, a police spokesperson, Dolapo Badmos, tweeted that the woman in the video had been arrested.
“The suspect is in custody and will be charged to court… The boy, who happens to be an orphan, has been rescued and kept in a shelter provided by Lagos state government,” she said.
Her tweet links to a video filmed by police showing the dog kennels where the boy was locked up:
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