THE DAY WE FAILED OUR PEOPLE
President Jacob Zuma spoke extensively in his state of the nation address (Sona) about land rights and land restitution, saying: “It will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve true reconciliation until the land question is resolved.” He called upon Parliament to move speedily in ensuring that the Expropriation Bill passed constitutional muster, so that it could be finalised into law.
The issue of expropriation without compensation is not foreign to the ANC. Included among our resolutions at the 53rd national conference, which took place in Mangaung in the Free State in 2012, were the following three proposals:
To replace the willing buyer, willing seller proviso with the “just and equitable” principle in the Constitution immediately, where the state is acquiring land for land reform purposes;
To advance expropriation without compensation on land acquired through unlawful means, or used for illegal purposes, having due regard to section 25 of the Constitution; and
To expedite the promulgation of the new Expropriation Act.
Right from the ANC’s founding meeting, held on January 8 1912, the issue of native land and reserves has been central to the organisation’s struggle for liberation.
Speaking at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania in 1984, then ANC president Oliver Tambo said: “Let us tell the truth to ourselves, even if the truth coincides with what the enemy is saying.”
This statement rings true today – not with regard to current rumours about the possibility of a split in the ANC, but in terms of the notion that whoever is the bearer of the truth should not matter, as long as the truth resonates with our people and the general thrust of the policies of our movement.
To give impetus to Tambo’s words, the ANC dedicated 2017 as the year of “unity in action” for all South Africans as we move the country forward.
It is time to activate those wise and deliberate calls for unity of purpose and enjoin citizens to rally around a common cause, no matter who initiates it – as long as it is in line with our commitment as the ANC to improve the lives of our people.
Against this backdrop of the ANC’s rich history and its resolutions taken, the party’s objection to this week’s motion in Parliament, brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – who proposed lending support to the ANC if it amended section 25 of the Constitution, allowing land to be expropriated without compensation – left many of us ANC members confused and hurt.
We felt that by rejecting the EFF’s attempt to pass this motion to amend the Constitution’s property clause, the party had squandered an opportunity.
Our outright dismissal of the motion, announced by ANC MP and chairperson of the rural development committee Phumuzile Ngwenya-Mabila, sent an unfortunate message to those who rely on ANC lawmakers to champion the cause for true and meaningful transformation.
The call was most likely made by the EFF to score political points, as it is prone to do, but it does not take away from the fact that this call is premised on the ANC’s founding principles of the return of land to those who were dispossessed.
The reality is that the land question has occupied the ANC’s agenda since its formation, and will continue to do so until land is returned to its rightful owners, the black majority.
In reply to the Sona debate, Zuma made it clear that the organisation was committed to finding all constitutional and legal means to expropriate land without compensation.
He said this to accentuate the ANC’s new policy of embarking on a sweeping programme of radical economic transformation.
How ANC MPs missed this resounding message from the president is strange.
The least the party could have done in response was to elaborate on its plan to return land to the people.
Instead, in an unfortunate and probably uncalculated move, we, the majority in the House, contradicted not only the president’s statement, but also the gist of the radical economic transformation agenda of the ANC.
Given that this type of transformation is not possible without access to land, to frustrate the agenda put forward by the EFF appears to frustrate the very policies Zuma announced.
As an ANC member of good standing, I am confident that I speak for millions of our people when I state, on record, that the party is committed to returning land to its rightful owners. We will spare no effort in realising this objective.
Amending section 25 of the Constitution, which deals with land reform, is not negotiable if we are to achieve equitable distribution of land.
To quote parts of section 25 verbatim, this is what it provides for:
1. “No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.”
2. “Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application – (a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and (b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected, or decided or approved by a court.”
As the custodian of the aspirations of the poor in this country, the ANC should have tabled the motion for discussion in Parliament to pave a way for the realisation of this milestone of our struggle.
ANC MPs need to realise that democracy demands that we sometimes support the views of our traditional opponents if those decisions help to advance the cause of our struggle.
We have fought for so long to build these democratic institutions, it works against our objectives and values to close rank now.
Of course, opposition parties will always look for a loophole to denigrate the efforts of our movement, but ultimately, our triumph lies in consolidating the victories of our hard-earned democracy. This includes amending the Constitution when the need arises.
After all, our democracy came about through a negotiated settlement, which we knew would present us with challenges going forward.
Having chosen to resolve matters at the negotiating table, rather than embark on an all-out liberation war which would ravage the country, was the ultimate act of patriotism.
We opted for this with our eyes wide open and now, two decades into democracy, we see a relatively stable country and a prosperous nation.
Despite this, the black majority remains in a state of penury as we have not succeeded in sufficiently reversing the economic legacy of apartheid.
Section 25 represents one of the major concessions made by the ANC in its adoption of that compromised political settlement during the early 1990s.
Even as we reflect on the achievements of our democracy through compromise, we have a duty as the people’s movement to assess the effects of these compromises with a view to taking hard decisions about the future of the indigent of this country.
Therefore, we should have supported the EFF’s motion, with modifications.
Parliament should have gone on to outline a credible legal process to achieve the amendment.
Section 25 can be changed in such a way that is satisfactory to all if we all commit to the agenda of radical economic transformation.
Having voiced its rejection of the motion, the ANC needs to now reassure the masses of our people about its commitment to the freedom struggle pioneered by our forebears.
Let me remind all South Africans that this has been a struggle to restore the dignity of the African through reclaiming our birthright, which is land ownership, and all the benefits that represents. Dlodlo is deputy minister of public service
and administration, and is chairperson of the ANC legislature and governance subcommittee
TALK TO US Do you think the ANC risks losing face following its opposition to the EFF’s motion in Parliament that land should be expropriated without compensation, or can it still speak confidently on the land issue?
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FRUITS OF LABOUR Ravele Community Property Association farm workers, based in Limpopo, harvest bananas. Most of the farm workers are beneficiaries