DA grap­pling with land stance

CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

A de­bate on the DA’s po­si­tion on land is sim­mer­ing as some within the party call for a more sub­stan­tial stance on the hot topic.

With the DA in­ten­si­fy­ing its bid for na­tional gov­er­nance ahead of the 2019 na­tional elec­tions, a strong view is emerg­ing from within the party that it needs to re­con­sider its po­si­tion and mes­sage on land, which has be­come a pop­u­lar cause.

A pro­vin­cial DA leader has told City Press that the de­bate has so far been sti­fled, but would be­come a hot topic in the next few months as a pol­icy re­view gets un­der way.

“There is the typ­i­cal pol­icy we’ve had for­ever, which just says the DA will try to do bet­ter than the ANC. Some of us have been in­sist­ing that we need a po­si­tion on land; we can’t keep get­ting left out of de­bates and al­low the ANC, the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters [EFF] and oth­ers to dis­cuss it among them­selves,” the pro­vin­cial leader said.

The deputy chair­per­son of the DA’s fed­eral coun­cil, Thomas Wal­ters, said the claim that the DA was falling be­hind on the land de­bate was in­cor­rect. Wal­ters is also the party’s shadow min­is­ter of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and land re­form.

“It is not true that we are left be­hind. Given our track record in the West­ern Cape, I would say that we are lead­ing the de­bate on land re­form. What tends to get re­ported on land re­form are the more emo­tive is­sues,” Wal­ters said.

“There is a pop­ulist and de­lib­er­ate push­ing of emo­tional trig­gers,” Wal­ters said. “That is a de­bate that we are not part of be­cause we don’t do pol­i­tics that way.

“There is no ques­tion that there ex­ists a his­tory of dis­crim­i­na­tion and dis­pos­ses­sion. But to look at to­day’s le­git­i­mate in­vestors in land, whether you might or might not have been de­scen­dants of peo­ple who were in­volved in the dis­pos­ses­sion of land, and call them [all] land thieves, and im­ply some kind of a racially based col­lec­tive guilt, is not fair to­wards those who ac­tu­ally treat their work­ers well,” he said. Wal­ters added that it was not true that dis­sent­ing views on land – or any other is­sues – were sup­pressed within the party. Last week, the EFF brought for­ward a mo­tion in the Na­tional Assem­bly to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion to al­low for the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion. The mo­tion was de­feated, with the ANC and DA vot­ing against it. Two other mem­bers of the DA fed­eral coun­cil agreed with the view that the land ques­tion should be looked at dif­fer­ently. One said that it no longer made sense for the party to shy away from the topic, which has be­come a se­ri­ous talk­ing point, po­lit­i­cally and so­cially. “We need to come out and break it down in the sim­plest lan­guage in terms of what do we mean when we talk about land resti­tu­tion.” Wal­ters told City Press that land had al­ways been on the DA’s radar and was fun­da­men­tal to bring­ing about free­dom, fair­ness and op­por­tu­nity in South Africa. The cur­rent pol­icy of the party speaks of ex­pro­pri­a­tion for a pub­lic pur­pose, ac­cel­er­at­ing land resti­tu­tion through ef­fi­cient man­age­ment of the process and re­main­ing com­mit­ted to the will­ing buyer, will­ing seller prin­ci­ple. Those who op­pose the cur­rent pol­icy in the party say there is con­tention around the def­i­ni­tion of a “pub­lic pur­pose”, and they say that the will­ing buyer, will­ing seller prin­ci­ple has proven to be in­ef­fec­tive and should be done away with. Oth­ers go as far as to say that those who make land claims should not be given money – just land – to ad­dress skewed own­er­ship pat­terns. Wal­ters re­sponded to the “strictly land” view. “The DA be­lieves that claimants must ul­ti­mately choose for them­selves when it comes to the form of com­pen­sa­tion they re­ceive for suc­cess­ful claims. But with the right poli­cies, ac­cept­ing and in­vest­ing in land will be [made] more at­trac­tive, thus mak­ing more peo­ple opt for land [rather than the money],” he said. “Pub­lic pur­pose” should speak of some­thing con­crete and de­fined, he said, and not be too vague and gen­eral.

Thomas Wal­ters

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