‘Ex­pro­pri­ate with­out com­pen­sa­tion’

South Africa’s peo­ple need their land re­turned, taken from white hands af­ter it was stolen in 1652, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE LAND ques­tion in South Africa has, as else­where in the world in strug­gles for in­de­pen­dence, al­ways oc­cu­pied a cen­tral place in the de­mands of the op­pressed. The Pan African­ist Congress broke away from the ANC in 1958, among oth­ers, on this ques­tion. Cit­ing the words in the Free­dom Char­ter’s pre­am­ble, “South Africa be­longs to all who live in it, black and white”, the PAC ac­cused the ANC of hav­ing be­trayed the as­pi­ra­tions of the African ma­jor­ity and sur­ren­dered the strug­gle to re­claim the sovereignty of the sub­ju­gated and the dis­pos­sessed. The ANC for its part rightly in­sists that it has ful­filled the prom­ise of the Free­dom Char­ter – that the min­er­als un­der the soil would be re­turned to the peo­ple – has passed leg­is­la­tion to that ef­fect and min­ing can only be un­der­taken un­der li­cence and by ap­proval of the state.

In his key work, Cap­i­tal, pub­lished in 1867, Karl Marx ex­plained that “the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of the mass of the peo­ple from the soil forms the ba­sis of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion”. The colo­nial white cap­i­tal­ists found that peo­ple would not sell their labour to them if they could make a liv­ing from the land. They needed to be forced to work and thus in­vol­un­tar­ily en­ter into a cap­i­tal-wage dy­namic. So, ev­ery­where, land dis­pos­ses­sion has been nec­es­sary for cap­i­tal­ism to cre­ate a class of wage work­ers, the ex­ploita­tion of whom is the source of all cap­i­tal­ist profit. Marx de­scribed land dis­pos­ses­sion (or “prim­i­tive ac­cu­mu­la­tion”) as cap­i­tal­ism’s “orig­i­nal sin”.

In the chap­ters of Cap­i­tal deal­ing with the ques­tion of land, Marx ex­plained the ten­dency of cap­i­tal­ism to cen­tralise cap­i­tal and con­cen­trate own­er­ship. This eco­nomic process is at work on the land in South Africa. In 1996, there were 60 938 com­mer­cial farms, shrink­ing rapidly to 45 818 by 2002 as a re­sult of the ANC govern­ment’s neo-lib­eral eco­nomic poli­cies. To­day, there are es­ti­mated to be 36 000 com­mer­cial farms, ex­pected to fall to just 15 000 within 20 years. As Marx ex­plained in Cap­i­tal, “one cap­i­tal­ist al­ways kills many.” But fur­ther, in 2002, just 1 348 com­mer­cial farms (five per­cent of the to­tal) re­ceived over half of all com­mer­cial farm in­come. These are the big cap­i­tal­ist farm­ers that mo­nop­o­lise farm­ing – barely a thou­sand in­di­vid­u­als.

The dis­cov­ery of gold in South Africa in the 1880s co­in­cided with the ma­tur­ing of Euro­pean im­pe­ri­al­ism. Only the im­pe­ri­al­ist mo­nop­o­lies could sup­ply the huge amounts of cap­i­tal needed to make gold min­ing profitable. Its en­trance into South Africa was a de­ci­sive wa­ter­shed, trans­form­ing the en­tire econ­omy, in­clud­ing the so­cial re­la­tions on the land.

In the late 19th cen­tury, despite the ex­is­tence of small and wealthy land-own­ing elite in the Western Cape, the white Afrikan­ers were over­whelm­ingly a peas­ant class. The out­put of their farms was of­ten at lit­tle more than sub­sis­tence level and re­lied on fam­ily labour and semifeu­dal labour re­la­tions with black ten­ants. To es­tab­lish their eco­nomic dom­i­nance, Bri­tish im­pe­ri­al­ism not only crushed the re­main­ing in­de­pen­dent African na­tions, but de­feated the in­de­pen­dent Afrikaner re­publics mil­i­tar­ily in the 1899-1902 South African War.

African and Afrikaner so­ci­eties were both re­con­structed to serve the in­ter­ests of Bri­tish im­pe­ri­al­ism. The need for vast num­bers of low-paid wage work­ers in the min­ing in­dus­try could be sup­plied by the dis­so­lu­tion of tribal African so­ci­eties. This guaranteed that land dis­pos­ses­sion ac­cel­er­ated. The de­mar­ca­tion of the “na­tive re­serves”, cul­mi­nat­ing in the 1913 Land Act, meant that for the African ma­jor­ity, ac­cess to land would in the fu­ture be fully on the terms dic­tated by cap­i­tal­ism.

The dis­lo­ca­tion of the South African War and the eco­nomic laws of cap­i­tal­ism worked their de­struc­tive power on the Afrikaner farms too. Be­fore 1890, 90% of Afrikan­ers lived in ru­ral ar­eas; by the 1930s, it was less than 50%. They were in­creas­ingly pushed into towns, dis­pos­sessed of land stolen by their fore­fa­thers.

How­ever, it is not just big com­mer­cial farms that con­trol the land. In 2002, three multi­na­tion­als con­trolled 90% of the maize, wheat and sorghum mar­kets; in 2008 three multi­na­tion­als con­trolled 86% of the fer­tiliser mar­ket; in 2007 80% of food pro­cess­ing was mo­nop­o­lised by four big busi­nesses; in 2010 the big re­tail chains con­trolled 68% of the food re­tail mar­ket. These white cap­i­tal­ist mo­nop­o­lies ex­ploit their black work­ers, squeeze con­sumers through their in­flu­ence over prices and push small and medium farm­ers out of busi­ness by mo­nop­o­lis­ing the mar­ket for farm in­puts and the mar­ket for pro­cess­ing, mar­ket­ing and sell­ing farm pro­duce.

In its dy­ing days the apartheid regime be­gan to dis­man­tle the enor­mous state sup­port that had pro­tected white farm­ers. This was a move cal­cu­lated to put the wealth of one of their core con­stituen­cies be­yond the reach of the state they were about to lose con­trol of. But the ANC govern­ment con­tin­ued the “nor­ma­tive eco­nomic model”, one neo-lib­eral mea­sure started dur­ing apartheid. For ex­am­ple, leg­is­la­tion passed in 1996 ended the state mar­ket­ing sys­tem and pri­va­tised the grain co-op­er­a­tives. These and other neo-lib­eral counter-re­forms fur­ther con­sol­i­dated the agri­cul­tural sec­tor as a monopoly.

The ANC govern­ment has re­dis­tributed eight per­cent of farm­land through its land re­dis­tri­bu­tion and resti­tu­tion poli­cies. Up to 250 000 ru­ral house­holds are thought to have ben­e­fited in some way.

The ANC govern­ment’s neo-lib­eral eco­nomic poli­cies have placed such lim­i­ta­tions on its com­mit­ments to land re­form that the resti­tu­tion process has re­sulted in min­i­mal re­dis­tri­bu­tion of land. One of the first resti­tu­tion vic­to­ries was the land­mark case of the Krans­poort Com­mu­nity in Lim­popo against the Dutch Re­formed Church. The case, used to de­fine what was meant by the con­cept “com­mu­nity”, was won in 1999. To this day, the com­mu­nity has been un­able to de­velop the land.

The Land Claims Court ceded the ti­tle deed to the land to the Krans­poort Com­mu­nal Prop­erty As­so­ci­a­tion on con­di­tion they pro­duced a vi­able de­vel­op­ment plan. Al­though through its own ef­forts, the com­mu­nity was able to raise the fi­nance to pro­duce a re­port to the sat­is­fac­tion of the court, the com­mu­nity has been left to its own de­vices to raise the funds for its im­ple­men­ta­tion. It has en­coun­tered nu­mer­ous ob­sta­cles in se­cur­ing the sup­port of pro­vin­cial govern­ment and district mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, show­ing the lack of syn­ergy be­tween the three tiers of govern­ment.

The Vhembe District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity ar­gued that it was pro­hib­ited by law from pro­vid­ing bulk in­fra­struc­ture for elec­tric­ity and wa­ter on the grounds that the farm Krans­poort was clas­si­fied as pri­vate land, whereas the en­tire resti­tu­tion process and leg­is­la­tion giv­ing ef­fect to it, clas­si­fies the land as com­mu­nal prop­erty with pri­vate dis­posal specif­i­cally pro­hib­ited.

Ac­tual and po­ten­tial fu­ture ben­e­fi­cia­ries, there­fore, are con­fronted not only with a lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources, or back-up from the State in other re­spects such as farm­ing ex­per­tise, but a lack of “co-op­er­a­tive” gov­er­nance be­tween na­tional, pro­vin­cial and district mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in ef­fect­ing land resti­tu­tion. As in the rest of the non-agri­cul­tural sec­tor of the econ­omy, white dom­i­na­tion sur­vives.

Strat­egy and Tac­tics of the ANC (1969) says: “In our coun­try – more than in any other part of the op­pressed world – it is in­con­ceiv­able for lib­er­a­tion to have mean­ing with­out a re­turn of the wealth of the land to the peo­ple as a whole. It is there­fore a fun­da­men­tal fea­ture of our strat­egy that vic­tory must em­brace more than for­mal po­lit­i­cal democ­racy. To al­low the ex­ist­ing eco­nomic forces to re­tain their in­ter­ests in­tact is to feed the root of ra­cial supremacy and does not rep­re­sent even the shadow of lib­er­a­tion.”

Land­less­ness is the chief pre­dic­tor of poverty, un­der­de­vel­op­ment and back­ward­ness in the post-colo­nial world. It is in this con­text that we pro­pose to amend Sec­tion 25 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of South Africa to make pro­vi­sion for the ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion of prop­erty, par­tic­u­larly land, for eq­ui­table re­dis­tri­bu­tion in our coun­try.

As I have said ear­lier, the land ques­tion in South Africa has, as else­where in the world in strug­gles for in­de­pen­dence, al­ways oc­cu­pied a cen­tral place in the de­mands of the op­pressed.

The is­sue of land claims should be opened be­yond the 1913 Land Act be­cause our peo­ple’s land was dis­pos­sessed as early as 1652, when the set­tlers ar­rived in this land of our fore­fa­thers. Andile Lungisa is an ANC EC pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber and for­mer ANCYL deputy pres­i­dent

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