Deeds, not words, matter amid the land hysteria
A huge political risk is simmering amid the outcry over expropriation without compensation
South Africa has over the past week been in the grip of hysteria over what the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania used to quaintly refer to as “The Land Question”.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has been hailed by some as a hero who has finally, finally, done what the ANC has failed to achieve in 24 years of freedom.
Meanwhile, others have cowered in the corner proclaiming that the entire property rights regime in the country is about to collapse.
The massive and glaring inequality in land ownership, and the massive economic inequality of South Africa, is an extraordinarily huge political risk. Whoever one may be, this cannot continue – or else we will be destroyed anyway.
I wish everyone understood this before they opened their mouths.
Here are some of my random thoughts on the past week’s events:
• Gugile Nkwinti has been the Land Reform minister since 2009. Last Tuesday, responding to the EFF motion in parliament, he said: “There’s no doubt about it; land shall be expropriated without compensation. Of course, government should own land because it is the government of the people.”What claptrap. Nkwinti knows that the dispossessed land of the people of Wallmansthal in Tshwane was restored back to them (that is, government was ordered to give it back to them) back in 2007. To this day government has not handed over their title deeds, and they are still not back on their land.
Over the past 10 years squatters have settled on the land and government has done nothing about it.
Wallmansthal is just one clear example that the Constitution – which Malema, with Nkwinti's myopic help, wants to change – has not failed. What has failed is the ANC, particularly under Jacob Zuma, to effectively, efficiently and programmatically transfer land to people.The people who now clamour to change the Constitution are the same people who have failed to give the people of Wallmansthal, Soweto and other parts of SA title deeds.
• The EFF motion’s goal is for all land to belong to the state. The same state that has failed to unlock state land for restitution for the past 24 years.• From comments by Nkwinti, on social media and elsewhere, one would be forgiven for thinking that expropriation without compensation will start tomorrow. Far from it. The National Assembly adopted a motion to investigate and review the feasibility of land expropriation without compensation.
It is worth noting that the amendments made by the ANC to the original EFF motion make what was adopted in parliament totally at odds with any kind of radical land expropriation as envisaged by the red berets. The committee is going to debate, review and return to parliament with a recommendation. Inde lendlela (this road is long), as Jacob Zuma used to sing.• Ten years ago it was fashionable to join the victimhood of Jacob Zuma and ignore his numerous flaws. While Mosiuoa Lekota stood up to Zuma, Julius Malema proclaimed that he would kill for Zuma. Today Malema dismisses Lekota’s concerns about the land issue and insults him, calling him a “historical mistake”.
Like many of Malema’s insults, it is catchy. Yet history teaches us that Malema will apologise later. Who exactly is the “factory fault” here?
• Will there be Zimbabwe-style land grabs in South Africa? Not if Cyril Ramaphosa remains ANC leader. Delivering his state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said: “We are determined that expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.”If, however, DD Mabuza takes charge alongside Ace Magashule and others, a new scenario will play out.
There are two ANCs: a quisling and intellectually weak ANC populated by Magashule and those whose failure in government leads them to Malema’s populism, and an intellectually robust ANC of Gwede Mantashe and others. Which one wins will be key.
• The EFF decision to dump the DA in Nelson Mandela Bay and possibly other metros could be a blessing in disguise for Mmusi Maimane. Malema now seems desperate for inclusion back into the ANC. That leaves just one real alternative to the ANC and that’s the DA.
There are opportunities aplenty in that void for Maimane, but he must play it right. Being less strident would be a start.