South Africa’s main opposition party on Monday blasted a proposed change to the Constitution that would allow for the expropriation of land without paying compensation to owners.
"Expropriation without compensation is state-sanctioned theft, which is inimical to economic growth and development,” said Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane.
Parliament passed the a bill containing the controversial change two weeks ago, 241-83.
"We will oppose this amendment with every tool at our disposal," Maimane said, adding that his party will mobilize public support to defeat it.
He claimed that the values on which South Africa was founded, and which the late Nelson Mandela inspired the country to follow, are under assault. "We will not hesitate to come to their defense," he said.
South Africa's parliament has referred the land expropriation matter to the Constitutional Review Committee, which will consult the public and report back to the National Assembly in six months.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) says the policy to expropriate land without compensation is designed to address the past injustices of apartheid, which saw black-owned land being forcefully taken.
Land is a sensitive issue in South Africa, where the majority of natural resources still remains in the hands of a few whites. Most commercial farms in the country who produce the bulk of food are white-owned.
The majority of black South Africans lack land to cultivate crops or build their homes. They live in crowded tin houses in shanty towns across the country.
The ANC says the process of land expropriation will be orderly and will not affect food security and the economy.