President Cyril Ramaphosa during oral replies at the National Assembly in Parliament. Picture: Siyabulela Duda

PARLIAMENT - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday called on skeptical opposition parties and the country's "scared" citizens to stop making a noise and rather contribute to the debate on land expropriation without compensation with concrete proposals.

"Rather than be scared, hide your head in the sand, run away and say the 'swart gevaar is coming'...I say come to the party. Let us discuss and find a solution," Ramaphosa said while answering questions in the National Assembly.

"I invite all those who are angry, all those who are anxious...some who are excited, those who are inspired to part of a finding of a soution on this issue. Throughout the process, we need to work together, guided by the needs of the poor in our country, the poor who are landless."

Ramaphosa was responding to a question from Mmusi Maimane, leader of the country's biggest opposition party and one of the biggest critics of government's plan to expropriate land without compensation - a measure that most MPs in the House agreed on to ensure millions of black South Africans who were dispossessed of land and assets during colonial and apartheid rule are given back their land.

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Between 1994 (the advent of democracy in South Africa) and 2014, only three million hectares of land was restored. A land audit report showed that whites, a minority in South Africa, still owned around 72 percent of land, much of which was taken from blacks since colonialism in the 1600s.

"This is also a time where we do need to sit back and listen, to the heart-wrenching stories of many South Africans whose land and assets were disposessed of them, particularly those who have land, who have assets, what would they have us do?" the president asked.

Ramaphosa said no policy on land expropriation without compensation would be framed without consultation with the country's citizens and experts.

"I have initiated a process where we will have a dialogue with a number of people and experts - both constitutional and experts on the land issue - to beging the process of discussing this matter with a view of coming up with a solution to give credence on how we use land to grow our eocnomy."

Ramaphosa said while property rights is protected in the Constitution, the same document also gives government the responsibility of restoring the dignity of citizens, including restoring land rights to the dispossessed.

At the same time, Ramaphosa warned that illegal land invasions would not be tolerated by authorities.

"We will not allow land is illegal. It begins to violate the rights of other South Africans and we will not allow the rights of others to be violated."

African News Agency/ANA