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Proposal by President Zuma on land reform 'hogwash'

31 October 2012, 08:12

EROSION OF ORGANISATIONAL DEMOCRACY IN THE ANC WILL LEAD TO ITS DEMISE: Proposal by President Zuma on land reform are hogwash and not in line with ANC policy.

Floyd Shivambu


On Tuesday, the 23rd of October 2012, a significant number of news reports pointed to a “new” land reform proposal posited by President Jacob Zuma during his address to the African Farmers Association of South Africa Congress. No one knows where these proposal come from but “It proposes that each district establishes a district land reform committee where all stakeholders are involved to be responsible for identifying 20% of the commercial agricultural land in the district and giving commercial farmers the option of assisting its transfer to black farmers". The President is reported to have further said that “In this way, land can be found without distorting markets”.

The gist of the proposal is contained in his assertion that the State will buy the land from its current owners at 50% of the market value, which is not very far from the market value. Paraphrased, this proposal says that the shortfall of the current land owner would be made up by cash or in-kind contributions from commercial farmers in the district who volunteer to participate. This sounds so profound from a President who since assumption of office as President of the ANC in 2007 and of the country in 2009 has never come up with a coherent and substantial policy proposal on how South Africa should respond to the developmental crises of poverty, unemployment and socio-economic inequalities.

President Jacob Zuma has never proposed anything coherent because more often than not, he misdiagnoses the real causes of South Africa’s challenges. In one instance he blamed high levels of crime on the abolition of death penalty and in another instance attributed unreasonable crime levels to a criminal justice system that guarantees accused citizens’ innocence before trial. When given an opportunity by the ANC to speak on what should be a broad political and ideological way forward amidst so many socio-economic crises confronting society, he feebly conceptualised the current conjecture as failure of the first transition and that the ANC needed a second transition, and provided no clear vision on the destination of the second transition. Obviously, the ANC rejected this hogwash and reminded him that the first transition towards attainment of all Freedom Charter objectives is not complete.

In the post Conference television interviews he did with the SABC after both the National General Council and Policy Conference in 2010 and 2012 respectively, President Zuma said the biggest challenge facing the ANC was ‘discipline’ of its youth, who just spoke many issues and disrespected the sitting leadership. He forgot the many socio-economic, ideological and political challenges confronting the movement, and focused on ill-discipline of the youth. Clearly ‘ill-discipline’ was never the biggest challenge facing the ANC because even after suspending and expelling these youth leaders, the crises of poverty and inequalities remained. The Marikana massacre happened even when the youth he identified as the biggest problem were not in Luthuli House. He never foresaw a crisis in the Mining sector despite the concerted calls by the ANC Youth League that the ANC should pay attention to the mining industry with the aim of extracting maximum benefit for the mining communities and workers.

Now President Zuma has come with a proposal on land reform, which is evidently not based on what the ANC said in the 52nd National Conference in 2007, National General Council in 2010 and National Policy Conference in 2012. President Zuma is making a significant detour from the 52nd National Conference’s observation which says “We have only succeeded in redistributing 4% of agricultural land since 1994, while more than 80% of agricultural land remains in the hands of fewer than 50,000 white farmers and agribusinesses. The willing-seller, willing-buyer approach to land acquisition has constrained the pace and efficacy of land reform. It is clear from our experience, that the market is unable to effectively alter the patterns of land ownership in favour of an equitable and efficient distribution of land”.

Re-affirming the essence of the observations of the ANC 52ND National Conference, the Policy Conference commission on land reform affirmed the following as pillars of consideration under willing-buyer, willing-seller; 1) Replace willing buyer willing seller with the “Just and equitable” principle in the Constitution immediately where the state is acquiring land for land reform purposes; 2) Expropriation without compensation on land acquired through unlawful means or used for illegal purposes having due regard to Section 25 of the Constitution, 3) Keep Nationalization as an option, and 4) Expedite the promulgation of the new Expropriation Act.

Now these resolutions are in the official report of the ANC to guide branches, delegates and leaders of the ANC to come with sustainable solutions to the land reform crises, which if wisely and decisively managed will be basis for thoroughgoing socio-economic transformation in South Africa. But the recent proposal by the President radically diverts from the essence of what the National Policy Conference said should guide how ANC deals with the willing-buyer, willing-seller phenomenon. The new recommendation by the President re-affirms the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle and even adds market value as a principle of determining the price of the land. The market-value principle is not even in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the Policy Conference resolution/recommendation to introduce Land Management Commission and Office of the Valuer General was meant to address this stumbling block to land reform. Clearly the President is not aware of the Policy Conference recommendations.

The practice of ANC leaders radically diverting from key policy proposals of the Movement is unacceptable and a real act of ill-discipline and directionlessness of the leadership. Why would the ANC spend lots of money, develop perspectives, convene its members and branches across the country in a rigorous process of participative democracy and policy making, which will be undermined by how a leader feels on a certain day. It can never be correct that branches of the ANC are being undermined in the manner that is happening, particularly on the important question of land reform. The land question is at the heart of the ANC’s reason to exist and the only practical immediate way to address the massive inequalities, poverty and unemployment crises confronting society.

It appears though that there is a new right-wing movement that seek to dishonour branches of the ANC and engage in some narrow, elite policy making processes that ignores the people on the ground. Minister Trevor Manuel, who is also a member of the ANC National Executive Committee, was recently quoted as saying the ANC way of policy making does not work. He said "Involving ANC branch members in detailed decision-making assumed that they had the information and knowledge they needed for participation”. He further said "The system as it is doesn’t work because it structures a relationship between people in the government and people in the ANC, but there is an asymmetry of information between them which is quite profound. For example, we will have people in government making proposals on nuclear energy and ordinary branch members (having) no idea what they are talking about”.

Minister Manuel’s remarks are not only sickening; they grossly undermine the members of the ANC who for some time now have tried to provide solutions on how the country should move forward. Minister Manuel should also be reminded that all elite-policy making outcomes like GEAR and Growth-Path have proven to be disaster with no durability and sustainability to improve people’s living conditions. The elite driven National Development Plan will also dismally fail to reach its own objectives and forever shift the goal posts and blaming all sorts of problems on why those goals cannot be reached. Why does Minister Manuel trust ANC members on voting him, Jacob Zuma and others into office if he cannot trust them with deciding the policy direction of this country? ANC branches have given a broad, but decisive framework on what is to be done and government people should be guided by those principles contained in the resolutions and recommendations of the National Conference and Policy Conference respectively.

If the ANC is to remain embedded, live forever and guided by what the people say, it should heed Amilcar Carbral’s clarion call that “We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our Party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories . ..”. Anything that dishonours this clarion call will lead to the ANC’s demise.

Floyd Shivambu is an Economic Freedom Fighter and Member of the ANC Youth League and ANC in Moses Kotane Branch, Johannesburg Region, Gauteng Province.

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