South Africa’s parliament voted Tuesday to move forward with an amendment to the country’s constitution that would allow the government to seize and redistribute white-owned land without compensation.
The motion was brought by the radical Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party and was widely supported by the ruling African National Congress, which controls almost two-thirds of the parliament. The measure passed by a vote of 241 to 83, reports Reuters.
EFF leader Julius Malema, a longtime proponent of land expropriation, said the “time for reconciliation is over. Now is the time for justice.”
“We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land,” Malema told parliament ahead of the vote, according to South Africa’s News24.
The ANC has long promised land reforms aimed at evening the distribution of land among racial groups, still a highly contentious subject more than two decades after the end of apartheid. Whites own roughly three-quarters of South Africa’s farmland, according to a 2017 government audit.
It was not immediately clear when any change to South Africa’s constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation would take place. The matter will now be referred to the Constitutional Review Committee, which must report back to parliament with a plan by August 30.
Newly elected South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has backed land confiscation, saying after his inauguration earlier this month that he would work to hasten the transfer of land to black people. He also stressed that food production and security should be considered in any expropriation effort.
Not all of South Africa’s parties supported the motion to amend the constitution. The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) opposed the measure, arguing that it would undermine property rights and deter foreign investment.
DA lawmaker Thandeka Mbabama said expropriation without compensation “cannot be part of the solution,” adding that it was a “lie peddled by the ANC, who fears being outflanked on the left by the EFF.”