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Zuma promises to return 'stolen lands' to black South Africans

Zuma promises to return 'stolen lands' to black South Africans

South Africa

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has promised black South Africans that the government would push through a new law to compensate them for their stolen lands.

The promise by the president in an address to the Gauteng province branch of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is considered a populist move aimed at shoring up support for the ruling party ahead of crucial local elections in August.

The embattled president has thrown his weight behind the bill which is making its way through South Africa’s parliament.

Under the proposed legislation, the state can acquire land without the owners’ consent by paying an amount determined by the office of the Valuer-General, effectively scrapping a “willing-buyer, willing seller” formula. Owners can challenge the compensation offered in court.

It is meant to redress racial disparities in land ownership in a country where land is an emotive issue.

“In 1913 … the land that had been stolen from us was legalised. And that is when we believe it was taken from us,” Zuma said in reference to a legislation that year which put just 13 percent of South Africa’s land, for farming and other purposes, in the hands of the black majority.

Experts have estimated about 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of farmland have since been transferred to black owners at the end of apartheid, but this is only a third of the ANC’s 30 percent target.

Zuma said to rectify the situation, his government would work “within the law … If it means amending the law.”

He described South Africa as “the only country in the world where the majority do not control the economy.”

Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters party, led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema has also promised to seize white-owned land for redistribution to landless blacks.

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