Land ques­tion must be ad­dressed

CityPress - - Voices - Malusi Gi­gaba voices@city­

The pam­phlet of the Thabo Mbeki Foun­da­tion has fo­cused at­ten­tion on the in­ter­con­nected ques­tions of land and the na­tional ques­tion in South Africa. It takes the view that the ANC’s 54th na­tional con­fer­ence erred in its “ex­pro­pri­a­tion without com­pen­sa­tion” res­o­lu­tion and de­parted from the party’s his­tor­i­cal ap­proach to both the above ques­tions.

From the out­set I wish to con­tend that this pam­phlet cre­ates an ar­ti­fi­cial di­chotomy be­tween ad­dress­ing the gen­uine plight of black peo­ple and the prin­ci­ple of non­ra­cial­ism. Nowhere in its his­tor­i­cal poli­cies does the ANC ar­gue that for South Africa to be non­ra­cial, black peo­ple must first forgo their le­git­i­mate claim to to­tal eman­ci­pa­tion and so­cial jus­tice and merely be con­tent with civil rights.

The is­sue I wish to fo­cus on is the im­por­tance of a rad­i­cal ap­proach to land re­form.

The fa­tal weak­ness of the foun­da­tion’s pam­phlet is that its en­tire fo­cus seems to be mi­nor­ity fears and not ma­jor­ity griev­ances.

It re­pu­di­ates ma­jor­ity in­ter­ests by as­sert­ing their le­git­i­mate claim to land is a de­par­ture from the ANC’s his­tor­i­cal po­si­tion on the na­tional ques­tion.

Through­out it con­fuses the method of re­dis­tribut­ing the land – land ex­pro­pri­a­tion without com­pen­sa­tion with the pur­poses of land re­dis­tri­bu­tion – for agri­cul­tural use, ur­ban res­i­den­tial use and other pur­poses.

It quotes ex­ten­sively from his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments rea­sons for which the land must be re­dis­tributed, seek­ing to ex­plain what these doc­u­ments might have said to ex­plain how the land should be re­dis­tributed.

Ac­tu­ally, one would be cor­rect to ar­gue here that these were not mat­ters of fun­da­men­tal pol­icy and prin­ci­ple, but of tac­tics.

Even the pam­phlet it­self cor­rectly con­sid­ered this not a mat­ter of “prin­ci­ple and strate­gic im­por­tance”, but a “tac­ti­cal and op­er­a­tional mat­ter”.

The mat­ter of prin­ci­ple is land jus­tice – the restora­tion of the his­tor­i­cal right of the for­mer colonised land as a means of pro­duc­tion.

This is fun­da­men­tal to em­pow­er­ing them and al­ter­ing the prop­erty and pro­duc­tion re­la­tion­ship.

Achiev­ing this would amount to to­tal eman­ci­pa­tion, the only ba­sis for non­ra­cial­ism. Any­thing short of this would be su­per­fi­cial and would not meet even the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of free­dom.

The ANC has ar­gued that black peo­ple suf­fered more than just na­tional hu­mil­i­a­tion, con­sti­tuted of cen­turies-old eco­nomic in­jus­tices. Black peo­ple re­quire a so­lu­tion not merely for for­mal po­lit­i­cal democ­racy but also for na­tional and eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion in equal mea­sure.

The ANC’s ap­proach has al­ways been that it would im­me­di­ately, on achiev­ing the first step of the trans­fer of power from the white mi­nor­ity regime to the peo­ple’s demo­cratic govern­ment, em­bark on a pro­gramme of fun­da­men­tal so­cial trans­for­ma­tion to pur­sue to­tal eman­ci­pa­tion by de­stroy­ing the ex­ist­ing so­cial and eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship which had been char­ac­ter­is­tic of the ex­is­tence of apartheid-colo­nial­ism.

Ex­clu­sive land own­er­ship by the white mi­nor­ity and the whole­sale land dis­pos­ses­sion of the black ma­jor­ity, on the other hand, had played a crit­i­cal role in this ar­range­ment which ul­ti­mately en­trenched white rule in South Africa.

Con­se­quently, it would not be pos­si­ble to up­root this sys­tem without ad­dress­ing this his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tice fun­da­men­tally through a rad­i­cal mea­sure that would trans­fer land into the hands of the black ma­jor­ity not as an as­set, but as a means of pro­duc­tion which would change the struc­ture and own­er­ship pat­terns of the econ­omy.

There­fore, any dis­cus­sion of the econ­omy and land ques­tion can­not pro­ceed from the premise purely of race or, at worst, the in­ter­ests of the white mi­nor­ity.

No­body re­futes the ANC’s prin­ci­pled as­ser­tion that, “South Africa be­longs to all who live in it, black or white”. This, we do not do be­grudg­ingly.

How­ever, to raise this land ques­tion in the man­ner the foun­da­tion pam­phlet does ob­fus­cates the fun­da­men­tal is­sue es­sen­tial in the strug­gle against apartheid that it was not merely a strug­gle to re­place white dom­i­na­tion with black dom­i­na­tion.

The pam­phlet is thus flawed in that it ob­fus­cates the na­tional ques­tion by try­ing to blunt the main con­tent of the strug­gle. It is con­cerned about the in­ter­ests of the priv­i­leged mi­nor­ity rather than the dis­pos­sessed ma­jor­ity and, above all else, it fo­cuses on the form of land re­form rather than its con­tent, ne­glect­ing the fun­da­men­tal role of land own­er­ship for the black ma­jor­ity, Africans in par­tic­u­lar, as a trans­for­ma­tion tool to change the own­er­ship of the means of pro­duc­tion. This should be the de­bate, rather than how land is trans­ferred.

Gi­gaba is min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs and a mem­ber of the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive


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