JACOB ZUMA, South Africa's president, has called on parliament to change the country's constitution to allow the expropriation of white-owned land without compensation.
Mr Zuma (74), who made the remarks in a speech yesterday, said he wanted to establish a "pre-colonial land audit of land use and occupation patterns" before changing the law.
"We need to accept the reality that those who are in parliament where laws are made, particularly the black parties, should unite because we need a two-thirds majority to effect changes in the constitution," he said.
Mr Zuma, who has lurched from one scandal to another since his election in 2009, has recently adopted a more populist tone after his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party suffered its worst election result last August since the end of apartheid in 1994.
His party lost the economic hub of Johannesburg, the capital Pretoria and the coastal city of Port Elizabeth to the moderate Democratic Alliance party, which also held the city of Cape Town.
The ANC is also under pressure from the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, led by Julius Malema who has been travelling the country urging black South Africans to take back land from white invaders and "Dutch thugs".
He told parliament this week that his party wanted to "unite black people in South Africa" to expropriate land without compensation.
Although progress has been made in transferring property to black South Africans, land ownership is still believed to be skewed in favour of whites.
The Institute of Race Relations, an independent research body, said that providing a racial breakdown of South Africa's rural landowners was "almost impossible".
Mr Zuma's comments caused outrage among groups representing Afrikaans-speaking farmers.
The Boer Afrikaner Volksraad said it would consider land expropriation without compensation as "a declaration of war".
"We are ready to fight back," Andries Breytenbach, the group's chairman, said. "We need urgent mediation between us and the government. If this starts, it will turn into a racial war which we want to prevent."
Last month, Mr Zuma called in the military to maintain "law and order" in Cape Town ahead of expected protests calling for him to step down. (© Daily Telegraph London)