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South Africa's controversial land reform bill withdrawn for constitutional review

South Africa's ruling African National Congress has withdrawn a land expropriation bill, while a committee explores the possibility of amending the country's constitution to allow the confiscation of land without compensation. (GULSHAN KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa's ruling African National Congress withdrew a 2016 land expropriation bill on Tuesday, while lawmakers explore the prospect of amending the constitution to allow the confiscation of land without compensation.

What's going on?

Parliament's portfolio committee on public works pulled the bill — which had not been signed into law — while a separate Constitutional Review Committee reviews "section 25 of the constitution to make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation," Bloomberg reports.

After the ANC announced the bill's withdrawal, the South African rand lost the currency's 1 percent gain from earlier in the day. Global head of currency strategy at FXTM, Jameel Ahmad, told Business Insider that the rand has been under pressure "on concerns that South Africa could be next in line to face the wrath of President Trump" following the U.S. president's tweet that his administration would be investigating farm seizures and "the large scale killing of farmers."

The rand's value has been in a gradual decline since the spring, seesawing in recent weeks due to investors' jitters while the government toyed with nationalizing the country's central bank, and amid news that the ANC would be moving forward with initiatives to take land from white farmers and redistribute it to black citizens.

So, are they seizing land or not?

It is unclear, for now.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has publicly endorsed land seizures in order to "correct past wrongs," after vowing last month to amend the constitution for such a purpose.

Rhetoric from other government officials has also signaled that expropriation plans are still in the works, while seeking to ease the minds of constituents. VOE News reported in May that Director-General of Agriculture Mike Mlengana said current land reform initiatives have been "misinterpreted," telling a group of white and black farmers, "Where does it come from that we are coming with guns blazing to take white commercial land?"

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule met with traditional leaders on Monday to address their concerns that expropriation plans would allow land owned by the Zulu nation to be distributed to individuals rather than remaining communal.

Magashule discussed the meeting with reporters on Tuesday.

"We affirmed our view that the kings and chiefs are the rightful custodians of communal land for and on behalf of the people and communities in the traditional areas," he said.

"The ANC will never be part of any attempt that seeks to tamper with authority of traditional leadership over the land of their ancestors including traditional communities."

Public hearings on the expropriation initiatives are set to conclude this week.

One last thing…
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