In a plea to stop young white people from continuing their exodus from the country, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa posed a rather curious solution on the campaign trail — tying them to trees and begging them not to emigrate.

Speaking at a meeting of wine farmers in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape on Tuesday, the South African president said he did not want to see young white farmers and the skills they possess leaving the country, jokingly posing his own solution to the ongoing emigration crisis.

“If I could, I’d tie them down to a tree and say don’t leave, I want you here in this country,” Ramaphosa told the group of mainly white farmers. The leader also moved to assure the wine growers over their fears surrounding land reform in South Africa, promising that if re-elected, it would be done in accordance with the law.

“The land reform process is something that we should never fear. It is going to be done in accordance with the rule of law and our Constitution,” the president added.

The worries he tried to alleviate come from a proposal by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which was backed by Ramaphosa. South Africa’s land reform aims to expropriate privately-owned farmland and redistribute it to members of the country’s landless black majority. However, the plan is controversial as it looks to seize land without any compensation for the white farmers and landowners who still form a major part of its agricultural industry.

Since the plan was announced, there have been reports in international media of white farmers coming under increased pressure to give up their land, with some even being physically assaulted or even killed.

Anxiety over land seizures has compounded an already growing problem of white emigration from South Africa since the end of the Apartheid era. On Tuesday, local media reported that since the ANC came to power in 1994, as many as 400,000 skilled South Africans, both black and white, have left for better prospects abroad. The report found push factors driving white emigration included a fear of change and lack of professional opportunities, citing anecdotal evidence that black economic empowerment (BEE) policies had sent a negative message to white university graduates as well as prospective employers.

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