Land, jobs are top priorities for radical S. African party

Soshanguve (South Africa) (AFP) –


The far-left South African EFF party unveiled Saturday its programme for legislative elections in May, with land expropriation and jobs at the top of the list.

"We cannot postpone the land question, we can not postpone the jobs questions," said Julius Malema, head of the Economic Freedom Fighters party.

He spoke to several thousand EFF members wearing the party colour red in a stadium in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, telling them: "We are hungry now, we want to eat now."

Almost three-fourths of South Africa's agricultural land is owned by whites who comprise just eight percent of the population.

The Natives Land Act of 1913 limited land ownership to seven percent of the black population, a level that rose to 13 percent in 1936 before being abolished in 1991.

The country's apartheid policies reinforced such discrimination through the mass relocation of black populations to poor homelands, and progress by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on resolving the situation has been limited.

A former ANC member, Malema founded the EFF in 2013, and his radical programme rules out "compromises" allegedly agreed to by ANC leaders with the white minority.

Malema, 37, has begun to eat away at ANC support amid chronic unemployment that now stands at 27 percent of the workforce.

But his keystone issue is land redistribution.

"The economy is in the hands of the white community, we want to change that," he told the crowd to cheers and raised fists.

"We are going to place all land under the custodianship of the state, for equal redistribution to all," he pledged.

"They killed our people, they raped our people, we cannot reward rapists, we cannot reward murderers, we want our land back and that issue is not negotiable," Malema declared.

ANC head Cyril Ramaphosa has also mooted a constitutional reform to allow land to be taken from minority white owners without compensation -- a plan that has alarmed many foreign investors.

The ANC is expected to win the general election after Ramaphosa, a relatively moderate pro-business reformer, was appointed president.