The South African city of Ekurhuleni, under Executive Mayor Mzwandile Masina, is planning to test out the government’s promised policy of seizing privately owned land without compensation for redistribution.
Since July, president Cyril Ramaphosa of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has been promising to amend the country’s constitution to clarify the ability he sees for the state to seize the land of white farmers, who are a minority of the population but majority of large landowners, and redistribute it to blacks. In addition, this would be done without legal or monetary compensation, ostensibly as a measure of social justice.
This scheme has had many observers warning that South Africa is mirroring the missteps of nearby Zimbabwe, where expropriation without compensation of white-owned farms led to food shortages and economic collapse. In fact, Zimbabwe was eventually forced to begin asking white farmers to return, and paying them for their stolen property.
Despite the immense legal and economic difficulties associated with the program, president Ramaphosa has been repeatedly adamant that it would not even require a constitutional change, only a “proper reading.” However, he has announced that the ANC will seek one as a clarification, likely to placate international observers such as the IMF, which eagerly supports the racist policy as long as it is “transparent” and “rules-based.”
The case of Ekurhuleni is partially intended to Ramaphosa’s claims, as Masina has stated that he fully expects the property owners to take the city to court, forcing the judicial system to rule on the legality of land expropriation under the current constitution.
The city council has targeted around 865 acres of currently vacant land within city limits, planning to use it for projects like government-subsidized housing programs, which have a waiting list of around 1.2 million people, but only supply around 26,000 homes a year.
Though this case focuses on urban, not farmland, it represents another step in South Africa’s seemingly inexorable tread toward the racist, forcible seizure of white-owned property, despite the likely consequences.