JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s ruling ANC said Wednesday it would make land reform a legislative priority ahead of upcoming elections, a move likely to appeal to black voters.
The party said passing new rules governing land claims by those who suffered racial discrimination under Apartheid was the priority before parliament’s term ends.
Elections are expected in April or May, although no date has yet been set. The bill would extend the deadline for restitution claims by five years to 31 Dec. 2018 and allow a broader range of claims to be lodged.
The ANC has ruled South Africa for 20 years and currently holds two thirds of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, meaning it can easily drive through the legislation.
The party is under electoral pressure from the newly formed party of ex-ANC firebrand Julius Malema to speed up the transfer of land and wealth to black South Africans.
While there is widespread acceptance of the need to overturn Apartheid injustices, critics of the restitution process say it has been too slow and badly managed.
Around 50 percent of the land already acquired for restitution has not been transferred to the beneficiaries, according to the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society.
There is also a backlog of tens of thousands of claims.
The ANC also ranked seven other priority bills, including those linked to rental housing, labor, and customs and excise.