Ramaphosa vows faster land redistribution

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President Cyril Ramaphosa warned the issue of redistributing land would "implode" unless it was addressed quickly.

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed on Wednesday to "escalate the pace" of redistributing land.

Land ownership is a sensitive subject in South Africa, and Ramaphosa warned the issue would "implode" unless it was addressed quickly.

"We must -- given the history we have had -- work with urgency to significantly and sustainably escalate the pace of land reform," Ramaphosa told parliament.

"If we do not do so, this problem that has stayed with us as a nation for hundreds of years… will implode in our hands.

"This is the historic task that we have as South Africans to address this question once and for all."

Land reform is set to be a key battleground in the 2019 general election, and the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party has encouraged supporters to seize property.

But Ramaphosa warned against illegal occupation.

READ: Land reform will not affect economic growth: Ramaphosa

"We cannot have a situation where we allow land grabs because that is anarchy," he said. "We will not allow land grabs, we will not allow land invasions."

The ANC has backed expropriation of land without compensation, and lawmakers last month backed a motion that could lead to constitutional changes over land reform.

Ramaphosa is seen as a pro-business reformist after Jacob Zuma&39;s graft-tainted rule.

But he must also boost support among ANC grassroot voters after years of declining election results for the party.

Describing land dispossession as South Africa&39;s "original sin", Ramaphosa said he was committed "to a comprehensive land reform programme that corrects the historical injustices of land dispossession".

Ramaphosa has supported land expropriation without compensation as long as it increases food production.