White South African farmers could be removed from their land without compensation after a National Assembly vote Tuesday.
The vote puts into motion a process to amend the country’s constitution in order to take white-owned land without pay, the U.K. Daily Mail reported.
The motion was proposed by Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema, and passed with 241 votes for and 83 votes against.
“We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land,” Malema said.
He added, “It is about our dignity. We do not seek revenge… all that our people ever wanted is their land to which their dignity is rooted and founded.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters leader has been committed to putting this policy in motion, and told his supporters in 2016 that he was “not calling for the slaughter of white people — at least for now.”
Seventy-two percent of South African farmland is currently owned by white people, according to a 2017 government audit.
“The (African National Congress party) unequivocally supports the principle of land expropriation without compensation,” ANC rural affairs minister Gugile Nkwinti said. “There is no doubt about it, land shall be expropriated without compensation.”
Freedom Front Plus party leader Pieter Groenewald cautioned that the decision could cause “unforeseen consequences that is not in the interest of South Africa,” according to the Daily Mail.
Ernst Roets, the deputy chief executive of civil rights group Afriforum, added that the motion violated agreements that were made after apartheid.
“This motion is based on a distorted image of the past,” he said. “The term ‘expropriation without compensation’ is a form of semantic fraud. It is nothing more than racist theft.”
At the end of apartheid in 1994, white farmers controlled 85 percent of the land.
The parties who voted against the motion were the Democratic Alliance, Freedom Front Plus, Cope and the African Christian Democratic Party, according to News24.
DA member Thandeka Mbabama said that although the wrongs of the past need to be fixed, the taking of land without compensation “cannot be part of the solution.”
She added that this motion was merely a diversion from ANC’s land reform failures and was a “lie peddled by the ANC, who fears being outflanked on the left by the EFF.”
The motion will be referred to Constitutional Review Committee, which will report back on the issue by August 30.
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