President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a quick interview with members of the European press ahead of his addressing European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday.
The president appeared alongside European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and used the opportunity to promote trade between Europe and South Africa as well as to talk about the centenary of Nelson Mandela.
Ramaphosa also had to field an uncomfortable question about land, after a journalist asked him if his rhetoric about the legacy of Mandela was contradicted by his presidency’s adoption of what was termed the “Marxist route” of land expropriation without compensation.
President Ramaphosa launches into a patient explanation of land, saying it will be resolved just as the apparent intractable problem of apartheid was solved. European parly President Tajani looks like he’s worried they will end up being late for the sitting
— carien du plessis (@carienduplessis) November 14, 2018
In response, Ramaphosa said the issue of land in South Africa, which may seem intractable, would be resolved just as apartheid had before it.
Economists and analysts have questioned whether the adoption of expropriation, which Ramaphosa has said several times is needed to address the “original sin of land dispossession”, conflicts with his desire to encourage investment in South Africa.
In July, Business Unity of South Africa (BUSA) said the issue of land expropriation and the debate over whether section 25 of the constitution should be changed had put the brakes on long-term investment commitments by foreign investors.
Ramaphosa, meanwhile, has taken pains several times to try and calm both South Africans and potential overseas investors.
Speaking to the House of Traditional Leaders in March, he said that people should not panic about expropriation, adding that it would not be a “smash and grab”.
In August, he told a room full of investors that “anarchy” would not be tolerated and that expropriation would be carried out in an orderly way.
He echoed these sentiments at the beginning of November at the Discovery Summit 2018 in Sandton attended by, among others, former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton and former UK prime minister David Cameron.
“We will not allow this to lead to degradation of economy. We won’t allow land grabs. As we heal this wound, we will do it how Mandela taught us. We must have discussions, and reach agreements that contribute to social cohesion and nation building,” he said.