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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 11:13 GMT
Mbeki may speed up SA land reform
President Thabo Mbeki
Mr Mbeki remains popular among many South Africans
South Africa may move more quickly on the emotive issue of land reform, said President Thabo Mbeki as he outlined this year's government's programme.

He promised to "review" the policy of "willing-seller, willing buyer", which could reduce the compensation received by farmers who lose their land.

Mr Mbeki was delivering his state of the nation address at the annual opening of parliament in Cape Town.

He also noted the "mood of confidence" from recent economic growth.

He focussed on measures that the government believes will help to reduce poverty and improve public services.

The land question is an emotive one in South Africa, where the majority of farmland remains under the ownership of white farmers.

Until now, measures to restore land to the black majority have been largely along market lines, but Mr Mbeki hinted this would change.

"The minister of agriculture and land affairs will, during 2006, review the willing-buyer willing-seller policy, review land acquisition models and possible manipulation of land prices, and regulate conditions under which foreigners buy land," Mr Mbeki said, to both cheers and jeers from members of parliament.


Mr Mbeki began his address by pointing to surveys that indicated that South Africans in general and business owners in particular were optimistic about the country's future.

"Our people are firmly convinced that our country has entered its age of hope," Mr Mbeki said. He said some 372bn rand ($61bn) would be spent over the next three years to improve services including electricity, water and telecommunications services, and to build houses and other infrastructure.

Service delivery and housing are pressing issues for Mr Mbeki's ANC as it approaches municipal elections in March.

He spoke of efforts towards "the attainment of a society free of shack settlements in which all our people enjoy decent housing" and pledged to eradicate the "bucket toilet" system by the end of next year.


He added that "the government will remain focused on the challenge to fight corruption in the public sector and in society at large."

Mr Mbeki pointed out that after this year's football World Cup in Germany, the world of football would be watching South Africa, which is to host the 2010 championship, but which was eliminated in the first round of this year's African Cup of Nations.

"I am afraid that our performance in the current African Cup of Nations in Egypt did nothing to advertise our strengths as a winning nation," Mr Mbeki said, to laughter from the house.

"However, starting today, the nation must make every effort to ensure that we meet all the expectations of Fifa and the world of soccer, so that we host the best soccer World Cup ever," the president said.

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