Land de­bate is a proxy

Business Day - - OPINION -

The sci­en­tific ap­proach sug­gested by former pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki for re­solv­ing the land ques­tion lacks so­phis­ti­ca­tion. The cur­rent land de­bate is a proxy — the real prob­lem is the racial com­po­si­tion of the econ­omy.

In 1994, the Pan African­ist Congress of Aza­nia (PAC) cham­pi­oned the land ques­tion, made it its elec­tion man­i­festo and coined the slo­gan “land first all shall fol­low”.

This proved to be un­pop­u­lar among the elec­torate, and the PAC got a hid­ing in the polls. While there may be other con­tribut­ing fac­tors, it is dif­fi­cult not to con­sider its dis­mal fail­ure to mo­bilise black South Africans around the land ques­tion and is an in­di­ca­tion that there was no ap­petite for land among the black pop­u­la­tion.

The way the is­sue was brought into the pub­lic dis­course by the EFF was sig­nif­i­cant. Un­like the PAC, the EFF lo­cated it at the cen­tre of the eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion of black peo­ple. There­fore land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion was made to strengthen the rad­i­cal pos­ture of the EFF and to out­ma­noeu­vre the ANC.

The ANC re­solved to ex­pro­pri­ate land with­out com­pen­sa­tion at its na­tional con­fer­ence last De­cem­ber, and now the econ­omy is pay­ing the price. If se­cu­rity of ten­ure is bro­ken, so will con­fi­dence in the SA econ­omy.

It is not too late to stem the eco­nomic slide. The gov­ern­ment needs to use avail­able con­sti­tu­tional levers to ac­cel­er­ate land resti­tu­tion. The white pop­u­la­tion needs to re­alise that the sta­tus quo is un­sus­tain­able.

Trans­for­ma­tion of the econ­omy is a pr­ereq­ui­site to se­cur­ing a fu­ture for all. Un­less this hap­pens, the “Ngoku” bri­gade — the group in the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee that wanted Mbeki to leave of­fice in 2008 — will con­tinue to whip up racial ten­sions. Mem­bers of the bri­gade are now spread over dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties, but the bond that binds them to­gether is reck­less­ness.

Linda Nobaza Cen­tu­rion

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