Mbeki’s take on land is a necessary provocation
Former president Thabo Mbeki’s foundation has blown the lid off the disorganised and unprincipled approach of the ANC on the land question.
The party’s poorly thought-out land redistribution approach has been characterised by mixed messages from the high echelons of the party.
Amid the insults now emanating from the ANC,
Mbeki underlines that it is sad that in the name of populism the ANC is willing to depart from its century-long commitment to nonracialism.
Mbeki is flagging that the ANC has not fully considered what the expropriation of land without compensation will do to race relations in SA, given that the debate is couched in such a manner that white landowners seem to be a specific target of such expropriation.
It is fascinating that President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be very much alive to the possible chasm that may be an unintended consequence of the wild and generalised approach to the issue. Earlier this year he even sought to assure the Afrikaner community that the constitution will not be amended.
Those who believe that the race nuances of this issue do not matter have memories that don’t stretch to the Morogoro conference, where the race issue was clearly addressed in relation to the Freedom Charter’s land clause. A document of the ANC published after that historic conference in Tanzania in 1969 makes it clear that the ANC was cognisant that the redistribution of land would include all race groups. It makes bold to say that “restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended and all lands shall be open to ownership and use by all people irrespective of race”.
How the latter-day ANC does not see this as an issue it needs to address head-on boggles the mind.
Mbeki’s pamphlet once again reminds us that there is no convincing plan to achieve the “second phase of the transition” that became a slogan of the party in the past decade. At the policy conference that came up with the slogan, the land question did not even feature. Also in the past decade, mutterings of the ANC Youth
League about land were laughed out of a national general council in Durban, when the nationalisation question was concretely raised.
The current position is at best misguided and at worst a demonstration of the loss of its moral compass by the ANC
— and the fact that it is purely fictional to consider the ANC a leader of society any more.
Pallo Jordan’s response to the pamphlet was a highly disappointing clutching at straws. He says that the constitution already allows for expropriation of land but sidesteps the fact that the ANC has failed to do that over two decades. Because of this glaring failure, it now resorts to desperate electioneering over the matter without proper consideration of the social cohesion fallout and how this will be dealt with to avoid reversing the gains of building the kind of nation that the Freedom Charter and the constitution envisage.
Jordan does not explain why the ANC failed to lead on this matter for all this time and only sprang into “revolutionary action” this year!
Emerging from under a rock to defend an ANC he described not so long ago as a “conversation among the deaf” seems bizarre, but at least he ventured an intellectual response. The same can’t be said for the secretary-general of the ANC, who gave a flat-tyre response, bluntly referring us to a conference resolution of the ANC and calling on Mbeki to shut up. It is sad to see what the ANC’s leadership has become.
The ANC cannot merely jump on to an electioneering bandwagon over the issue of land without doing some thinking about how it will balance the needs of all of SA’s people, black and white. The Mbeki foundation’s incisive input, with all its flaws, may well be the ANC’s way out of the mess it is about to create through populist rhetoric, by forcing an urgent discussion in its ranks that will seek to address the obvious blind spots in the current debate.
This input may well be the ANC’s way out of the mess it is about to create