By Chris Bishop
President Cyril Ramaphosa took on the thorny issue of land that is likely to raise a number of uncomfortable questions at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.
The ruling African National Congress surprised many last year when it vowed to go along with land expropriation without compensation in line with the calls from the radical opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters. It sent shivers down the spine of many foreign investors who fear it could be the thin end of a nationalisation wedge.
“It will not be done out of vengefulness where people go around grabbing land. That is how we do things in South Africa,” Ramaphosa told a pre-Davos breakfast in Johannesburg.
“We are not going to cut off our noses to spite our faces but we are going to push the interests of our people.”
Ramaphosa said the furore around land has put the issue to the top of the agenda, which was good. He said it had lit a fire under government to move it forward in sorting out the land question.
“Landowners have also come forward saying they now realise how important this is and have offered to put land into the pot.” Says Ramaphosa.
The president said the government would concentrate on appropriating state owned, abandoned and unused land.
The ruling ANC goes to the polls in May in the hope of extending its nearly 25-years in power in South Africa. It is unlikely to lose its grip on power but knows that the land issue is likely to be a vote winner.