President of South African agricultural lobby group resigns

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Farm workers walk between rows of vegetables at a farm in Eikenhof, South Africa, October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African agricultural lobby group, Agri SA, said on Friday its president would resign at the end of the month for health-related reasons, a day after the country moved a step closer to allowing land expropriation without payment.

Land ownership is a divisive issue in South Africa more than two decades after the end of apartheid, during which millions among the black majority were dispossessed of their land by a white minority.

Dan Kriek, who has been involved with Agri SA for 25 years, will leave at the end of the year. Deputy President Pierre Vercueil will assume the role until the 2020 annual congress, at which an election for a new president will take place.

“Agri SA is now entering a critical period in which much time and energy will have to be devoted to protecting the Constitution and to negotiating sustainable land reform solutions,” Kriek said in a statement, adding that hard work had put huge demands on himself and Agri’s leadership.

Reuters could not immediately reach Kriek for comment.

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has repeatedly pledged to accelerate land transfers to the black majority denied ownership rights under apartheid’s segregation laws, but progress has been slow.

On Thursday it was confirmed that proposed changes to the country’s constitution to allow land to be expropriated without compensation will be officially published next week, setting the stage for a conflict between the government and commercial farmers.

Kriek, who was part of an advisory panel appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year, has long spoken out against the need to change the constitution to allow land expropriations without payment.

Agri SA, which represents 26 commodity organisations as well as 44 corporate members, thanked Kriek for his service and leadership at the organisation.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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