April 19, 2019 / 12:25 PM / a month ago

Presidential panel member rejects final report on South African land reform

Fields of wheat are seen on farmland on the banks of the Orange River near Van der Kloof, South Africa, October 29, 2018. Picture taken October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s push to reduce rural poverty and quell growing anger over unequal access to property faces further delays after a member of an advisory panel on the issue on Friday rejected key aspects of the plan.

Land ownership is a controversial and emotive issue in South Africa where racial inequality persists more than two decades after the end of apartheid, during which millions of the black majority were dispossessed of their land by the white minority.

While protests over land, housing and poverty gather pace ahead of national elections in May, lawmakers are drafting a bill to make changes to Section 25 of the constitution which sets out criteria for land reform and land rights.

If adopted, the proposals mean land could be legally expropriated without compensation being paid.

A draft bill is set to be debated in October and a report by the president’s advisory panel is key to how the final law will look.

Dan Kriek, head of non-profit agricultural association AgriSA and appointed by Ramaphosa to the panel, said on Friday he and one another member of the group had refused to sign the final report due to be handed to the president on April 24.

“We have released an alternative report setting out perspectives on land reform based on proven agricultural practice and sustainable economic growth” Kriek said in a statement.

The proposed law has spooked some investors fearing it would violate property rights, even prompting a factually incorrect tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump saying he wanted his secretary of state to study “land and farm seizures” in the country.

Ramaphosa has assured investors property rights will be protected.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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