Sunday Times

Mbeki’s take on land is a nec­es­sary provo­ca­tion

- ONKGOPOTSE JJ TABANE ✼Tabane, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and busi­ness­man, is the au­thor of ‘Let’s Talk Frankly’.

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

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