Theresa May land reform

(Alex Morales / Bloomberg / Twitter)

Theresa May signals her support for land reform in South Africa

We can already hear Donald Trump reaching for his phone. British PM Theresa May says the UK supports “sensible” land reform.

Theresa May land reform

(Alex Morales / Bloomberg / Twitter)

Land reform – and the version which features expropriation without compensation – has been under the global microscope in the last week. So perhaps it was inevitable that Theresa May would have to discuss the issues during her visit to South Africa.

Speaking at a business forum in Cape Town on Tuesday morning, British Prime Minister May addressed delegates and media about the intentions behind her visit to Africa. She will also be visiting Kenya and Nigeria in the next few days, in a bid to “strengthen ties” with these countries after Brexit.

Why is Theresa May in South Africa?

Downing Street has been very honest about this trip and openly explained that they are looking for alternative sources of trade and investment once the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019. It seems that the Conservative leader is deadly serious about reigniting relations with the continent:

Theresa May on land reform

Her keynote speech ended with several questions from the international media, and two from local media. SABC and BusinessDay were the only two outlets who got to ask May a question, and both had one thing in mind – the land question.

Since Donald Trump’s fact-devoid tweet on land expropriation broke the internet in South Africa, there is a keen interest to gauge what other world leaders think about the issue. When asked by SABC, Theresa May confirmed that she supported Cyril Ramaphosa’s approach to land reform.

“The UK has supported land reform that’s legal and transparent. It’s an issue I’ve discussed with Cyril Ramaphosa and we’ll be talking about it later. I welcome his comments about approaching it. He’s made reference to their being no”smash and grabs” on land reforms, and we support that.”

May was a little less direct when Business Day asked her about land expropriation, however…

“I welcome Ramaphosa’s comments on approaching land reform, bearing in mind the economical aspects. We have an opportunity to unlock future potential. I’ve brought a significant business delegation along with me, and as I said, we look at the whole of Africa as a place where we want to invest.”

Land reform or land expropriation?

In fact, the Prime Minister perhaps played her cards right on this one – the process of land reform is a lot less contentious than expropriation without compensation.

Traditionally speaking, reform involves forms of compensation and the awarding of title deeds to rehomed residents. Expropriation without compensation flirts with the idea that the state will take control of property – although, this is something that President Ramaphosa has denied he will pursue.