Time to get rid of the apartheid town­ship

The Witness - - OPIN­ION - Martin van Staden • Martin van Staden is a law stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Pre­to­ria and the South­ern African re­gional di­rec­tor of Stu­dents for Liberty.

MU­NIC­I­PAL gov­ern­ment through­out South Africa still owns up­wards of five mil­lion ur­ban plots that are oc­cu­pied by pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple.

Many of these peo­ple, de­nied in the past of the right to own any prop­erty by the apartheid gov­ern­ment, have lived on these prop­er­ties for their en­tire lives. The prob­lem with this state of af­fairs is that, 22 years after the end of apartheid, these peo­ple are still ac­cepted as be­ing ten­ants rather than prop­erty own­ers.

The Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion (FMF) and a hand­ful of busi­nesses are ap­par­ently the only civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in South Africa that have taken note of this. There are oth­ers, how­ever, who con­tinue to push for more gov­ern­ment own­er­ship of prop­erty, rather than own­er­ship by the peo­ple.

In June, for ex­am­ple, the FMF, in co­op­er­a­tion with Christo Wiese and the City of Cape Town, were suc­cess­ful in hav­ing 100 plots of coun­cil­owned prop­erty in Cape Town con­verted to full own­er­ship for the cur­rent oc­cu­piers.

Last year, the FMF and First Na­tional Bank did the same in Tuma­hole, Parys, where Wiese was also a spon­sor. The project, known as Khaya Lam (My Home), is aimed at giv­ing in­hab­i­tants of coun­cil­owned prop­erty free­hold own­er­ship of the prop­erty they live on.

The project em­braces the con­cept that own­er­ship does not only lead to im­mense eco­nomic ben­e­fits but also im­plies dignified liv­ing for the owner.

In Africa, in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties used to have a very close re­la­tion­ship with the land they lived on.

Dur­ing the colonial era, how­ever, the Euro­cen­tric in­sti­tu­tion of “ex­pro­pri­a­tion” burst onto the scene, which de­prived tens of mil­lions of peo­ple of their land and prop­erty.

To­day, ex­pro­pri­a­tion, in all its colo­nial­ist glory, con­tin­ues to be em­braced by our demo­cratic gov­ern­ment. With the pass­ing of the new Ex­pro­pri­a­tion Act, our os­ten­si­bly post­apartheid gov­ern­ment is now it­self en­joy­ing the ide­o­log­i­cal fruits of colo­nial­ism.

Ex­pro­pri­a­tion in the colonial era meant that the gov­ern­ment could take prop­erty from its right­ful own­ers and keep it for it­self or hand it out to friends of the state. While much of the lat­ter did in­deed hap­pen, vast tracts of land were kept by the gov­ern­ment and even­tu­ally be­came “na­tive re­serves”, and, of course, the ur­ban town­ship.

The re­sult de­prived the ma­jor­ity of South Africans of the im­mense sense of pride and dig­nity that comes with hav­ing cer­tain en­ti­tle­ments to prop­erty.

The ur­ban town­ship con­tin­ues to ex­ist to­day in much the same form as it did a cen­tury ago. The mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ ment, or some other branch of gov­ern­ment, usu­ally owns the land upon which the town­ship in­hab­i­tants are set­tled and so they are un­able to sell legally, let or mort­gage the prop­erty.

Town­ship dwellers are not able to re­gard “their” prop­er­ties in the same way as other South Africans in the sub­urbs. This de­pri­va­tion of own­er­ship leads di­rectly to a lack of in­vest­ment by the in­hab­i­tants of these prop­er­ties and the ab­sence of a prop­erty mar­ket.

If we wish to see town­ships be­come mid­dle­class sub­urbs, we must ad­dress own­er­ship. The so­cial­ist ex­per­i­ment of state own­er­ship has clearly failed and pro­duced bland, poor and un­ap­peal­ing ar­eas where the gov­ern­ment does not care to main­tain the mil­lions of plots and homes which it of­fi­cially owns.

This is noth­ing new, for we know only pri­vate own­ers have a true in­cen­tive to main­tain and de­velop their prop­erty.

It is un­think­able that land re­form in South Africa, for some, seems to mean more of the same and not the ad­vo­cat­ing of the extension and strengthen­ing of prop­erty rights for the poor and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

I be­lieve it is time for real land re­form. The legacy of apartheid can be healed only when we dis­tance our­selves from the apartheid state­cen­tric mind­set.

— Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.