The big land debate is on
New president Cyril Ramaphosa is committed to the return of land and the restoration of the humanity of black people, writes Molebatsi Masedi
EUPHORIA has captured those whom apartheid colonialism dispossessed of their lands and reduced them to beggars in their country of birth. Land dispossession was made into law with the passage of the 1913 Land Act.
Talk of legalising theft. Through the stroke of the pen Africans were reduced into landless beggars who moved to cities, towns and farms to sell their labour for next to nothing. The euphoria that has enveloped the country and Africans in particular is born of the recent resolution on the expropriation of land without compensation. This is a serious departure from the original willing buyer, willing seller model of land restitution.
There is consensus that the willing buyer, willing seller model has been a monumental flop. Instead of returning land to the rightful and deserving owners, the principle lengthened dispossession.
Over the years there has been debate on the failure of the government to return the land to its owners. With the acknowledgement of the failure of land restitution under the current model, former President Jacob Zuma started the debate on land expropriation without compensation in the twilight of his term. At first Zuma’s rants were not accepted, at best they were tolerated like you would comic relief in tense times.
Land appropriation without compensation would have fizzled out like all radical and liberating resolutions of liberation movements across the globe. That was the case until the ANC presidential hopeful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma came along and proclaimed radical economic transformation as a clarion call to action.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma rescued radical economic transformation from oblivion and made it the plank of her campaign. RET would manifest itself through, among other policy options, land restitution without compensation. She was treated with disdain by some of her own comrades and her views dismissed as radical economic looting.
Instead of going away under the barrage of attacks from powerful sectors of society, including white monopoly capital, RET gained traction among the people. It ended up in a set of recommendations from the ANC mid-term policy review in the third quarter of last year.
The ANC 54th national conference adopted RET as an official policy, to deepen socioeconomic transformation and bring black people into the mainstream economy. Some of the postulates of this radical economic pursuit by the ANC would be land appropriation without compensation. There would also be the nationalisation of the reserve bank and free tertiary education.
Detractors of appropriation without compensation mounted a campaign of disdain and vilification of this resolution of the ANC. South Africa would be a destroyed country like Zimbabwe, once the food basket of Africa. Investors would take their money to where they would receive security of their assets.
In the light of this mounting national and international pressure, it seemed like the ANC would succumb and abandon land appropriation without compensation in favour of some deal to appease local and international capital.
The ANC might have bowed to pressure and went gentle on socio-economic transformation.
As if on cue, Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters threw the spanner in the wheel. It tabled the motion on land appropriation without compensation and dared the ANC to support it. The motion was amended to accommodate the fears of the ruling party. It received overwhelming endorsement in the National Assembly. What remained to be done, was a review of the constitution and laws to make land appropriation without compensation possible and legal.
Out in the villages, townships, farm compounds and squatter camps hope was restored to people long dispossessed of their land. They saw their humanity being restored with the return of the land.
That land is going to be returned to the people without compensating the privileged in the country and abroad. These were people who thought in the era of President Cyril Ramaphosa it will be business as usual, with the rich getting richer and the poor condemned to perpetual poverty.
It has turned out that Ramaphosa is committed to the return of land and the restoration of the humanity of black people. It will be hard and long before every stolen piece of land is returned to the people. People are eagerly awaiting the roll out of land appropriation without compensation.
Ramaphosa is on record as saying, land will be expropriated without compensation, but with great wisdom and skill so food security and agriculture are not compromised.
As the return of land takes a concrete shape, the EFF has dumped the DA by the wayside. This is a sequel to the DA voting against the EFF motion. The marriage of convenience hatched to spite the ANC is in trouble. At the slightest provocation the DA will be returned to the opposition benches in municipalities and metros it is running in coalition with the EFF.
The EFF and the ANC are all pursuing the same cause, land appropriation without compensation. This doesn’t come as a surprise; the FF has become more ANC than even the ruling party itself. Malema is even accused of having moles at senior levels of his former political home. Of late he has been breaking news on ANC decisions ahead of everybody else.
As if to compensate the
ANC for supporting its motion on appropriation without compensation, the EFF has promised the ruling party the executive mayoral position of the DA-run Nelson Mandela Bay metro. A motion of no confidence against current mayor, Athol Trollip is loading.
The EFF is set to use its king maker position to extract land expropriation without compensation from the ANC. It however remains to be seen what the future holds. Will this remain yet another dream deferred or is this the dawn of a new era.
Shortly a Constitution Review Committee will be constituted to look at Section 25 of the Constitution and its constraints on land appropriation without compensation. The clause provides for compensation in the appropriation of land, a land restitution plan that has failed black people for over a decade of democratic rule.
In the course of easing the quest for land appropriation, a lot of negotiations will happen and compromises will be made. At the end of this exercise the economy will be opened up for those historically left out of the mainstream of the wealth of the country.
It is radical economic transformation, now or never. The economy must be opened up for all irrespective of class, colour or gender if democracy and freedom have to be of meaning to the wretched of the earth that are abound in the country.
The struggle to bring back the land is South Africa’s own Second Chimurenga.
Over the years there has been debate on the failure of the government to return the land to its owners.