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White South African group challenge Ramaphosa land reforms

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A ‘No entry sign’ is seen at an entrance of a farm outside Witbank, Mpumalanga province, South Africa July 13, 2018. Reuters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – A South African advocacy group that lobbies for the rights of white farmers will on Thursday challenge in court President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to change the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation.

Mr Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in February, has made land redistribution a flagship policy as he seeks to unite the fractured ruling African National Congress (ANC) and win public support ahead of an election next year.

Land is a hot-button issue in South Africa, where racial inequality runs deep even 24 years after the end of apartheid. Whites – nine percent of the 56 million population – still own more than 70 percent of agricultural land.

Since white minority rule ended 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.

Afriforum, an advocacy group that mostly represents white Afrikaners, is questioning the legality of a key parliamentary committee report that recommended a change to the constitution, according to court papers seen by Reuters.

Afriforum says the committee illegally appointed an external service-provider to compile the report and also failed to consider more than 100,000 submissions opposing land expropriation without compensation.

“We want the court to refer the report back to the committee and to request the committee to repair the wrongs,” Willie Spies, Afriforum’s attorney, told Reuters.

Parliament, where the ANC enjoys an overwhelming majority, filed an answering affidavit arguing that Afriforum was trying to frustrate the legislative process.

Parliament says the report was produced by its staff and that it had considered all submissions.

Mr Ramaphosa has given few details about how a constitutional change would be implemented but says any reforms will not affect investment, economic growth or food supply.

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