Give clar­ity on land resti­tu­tion

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis -

Oh for a time ma­chine to take the rul­ing party back 10 years to do the job of land re­form when the eco­nomic times and out­look were rosier. Much rosier. The econ­omy was grow­ing, there was fis­cal space in the bud­get, state cap­ture and its at­ten­dant catas­tro­phes were years off and state en­ter­prises were still in rea­son­able shape. Now, the raided pub­lic purse is bare, the con­sumer is un­der at­tack, state en­ti­ties want more hand­outs and pri­vate busi­ness can­not hold it­self up as any kind of ex­am­ple: think Stein­hoff, McKin­sey, SAP and KPMG.

One case this week has Lim­popo farmer David Rak­gase go­ing to court to force govern­ment to sell a farm to him, which he has been leas­ing for 27 years.

Land re­form has never been just a nice-to-do. Both for rea­sons of eq­uity and to pro­vide a base for eco­nomic growth, it has al­ways been a have-to-do.

But, for rea­sons un­clear, land resti­tu­tion has never been al­lowed to take its place at the top, or at least as a pri­or­ity, of the pol­icy agenda.

Un­der Ja­cob Zuma, when he was pres­i­dent, per­haps this is un­der­stand­able be­cause his agenda, we now know, was brazenly to ben­e­fit him­self, his as­so­ciates and a nar­row elite.

With the Demo­cratic Al­liance in dis­ar­ray, self-im­plod­ing over its Cape Town mayor, Pa­tri­cia de Lille, and un­able to ar­tic­u­late its po­si­tion on black em­pow­er­ment, it has been left to the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers to shape pol­icy, at least on the land is­sue.

It prod­ded the ANC, at its elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, to adopt a new po­si­tion on land re­form that in­cludes ex­pro­pri­a­tion without com­pen­sa­tion as a new pol­icy op­tion.

This is in­tended to be a se­lec­tive in­ter­ven­tion, ex­pro­pri­a­tion to hap­pen without jeop­ar­dis­ing food se­cu­rity or the fi­nanc­ing of farm pro­duc­tion.

Our eco­nomic choices now are both lim­ited and stark. Clar­ity and con­fi­dence are needed, not con­fu­sion. But the ANC stum­bles along try­ing to man­age a pro­gramme that should long since have been achiev­ing sig­nif­i­cant re­sults; it’s try­ing to en­cour­age con­fi­dence but un­der­mines it with ill-timed late-night mes­sages.

One mes­sage from the ANC this week said 139 pri­vate farms had been tar­geted as cases to test pay­ing be­low mar­ket value in land claims. On what ba­sis have the 139 farms been cho­sen? Is this dor­mant land? Land ac­quired by force un­der apartheid?

An­other, from the Twit­ter ac­count of the head of eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, Enoch Godong­wana, said state-owned land would be the first to be dis­trib­uted. The two mes­sages could not be more dif­fer­ent.

Tem­beka Ngcukaitobi, au­thor of The Land Is Ours, has out­lined in de­tail, in­clud­ing in ar­ti­cles for the Mail & Guardian, what win-win re­form, which in­cludes the op­tion of ex­pro­pri­a­tion, would look like. His model, which com­plies with the Con­sti­tu­tion and the rule of law, puts the courts at the cen­tre of the process to en­sure that it is eq­ui­table. This means re­form does much more than ben­e­fit a new elite, but rather shares the joy widely.

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