South Africa’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion that will amend the country’s constitution, allowing the seizure of white-owned land without compensation.
The motion, brought forward by radical Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema, was approved with 241 votes in its support and 83 against.
Malema, the leader of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), had been pushing for the motion for a long time.
In 2016, he told his supporters he was “not calling for the slaughter of white people — at least for now.”
In 2017, the government found out that 72 percent of the farmland in South Africa was owned by white farmers as compared to 85 percent after apartheid ended in 1994 and democracy took over.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, during his inauguration, promised to transfer land to black people.
"The time for reconciliation is over. Now is the time for justice,” Malema told the parliament, referring to his motion. “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.”
The radical leader also said the measure is all about the restoration of black people's dignity and has nothing to do with taking revenge on white people.
Minister of Water and Sanitation Gugile Nkwinti, who is also the former minister of rural affairs and land reform, said the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) also supports “the principle of land expropriation without compensation."
“There is no doubt about it, land shall be expropriated without compensation,” Nkwinti added.
However, there are some who believe this is discrimination — such as Ernst Roets, the head of civil rights group Afriforum, who called the measure a violation of agreements made at the end of apartheid.
Meanwhile, Freedom Front Plus party leader Pieter Groenewald warned of “unforeseen consequences” of stripping white people of their lands.
Although MP Thandeka Mbabama supported the call, she also believes moving forward without compensation "cannot be part of the solution.”
She said this was being used to distract people from the ANC's failures with land reform and was a "lie peddled by the ANC, who fears being outflanked on the left by the EFF.”
Roets said the call is a “semantic fraud” and “is nothing more than racist theft.”
Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst, warned of legal challenges.
“This thing is going to court, make no mistake. The motion today means land has been elevated even higher as a political issue to code red from code amber,” he said.
Despite arguments, the vote called for the ANC to redistribute lands as the pressure grows to gain support of poorer black voters ahead of the election next year.
Parliament has ordered to report back on the issue by Aug. 30.
Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters/ Mike Hutchings