South Africa Budgets for Land Purchases Even as Expropriation Looms

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South Africa has set aside 3.7 billion rand ($261 million) to help black farmers who want to purchase land and acquire title deeds even as the country is changing its laws to make it easier to expropriate land without compensation.

 That stands in contrast with demands from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters who wants all land under state control.

Lawmakers last year approved a proposal by the ruling African National Congress to change the nation’s constitution to enable taking land without paying for it in certain circumstances as a way to address skewed ownership patterns created during white-minority apartheid rule. The country’s main commercial farmers’ lobby group says the move will deter investment and it’s invoked investor concerns of Zimbabwe-style land grabs.

South Africans who support the move argue it will go some way to addressing economic injustices. Many black citizens who live in shantytowns and travel long distances to get to places of work, hope to receive land to build homes.

 Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced the spending measure in his budget speech Wednesday, adding that the country will also allocate 1.8 billion rand to implement 262 priority land-reform projects over the three fiscal years.

The government plans to introduce two grants in the fiscal year starting April next year, to upgrade informal settlements. The funds will total 14.7 billion rand and will affect 231,000 households, it said.