The EFF’s land demands

2014-12-11 06:00

What is the land policy of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and how do we put into practice the proposal for land expropriation without compensation?

Related to these are further questions. Who has a right to land in South Africa? How should land be redistributed?

These questions and more will be discussed at the EFF’s inaugural National People’s Assembly in Mangaung this weekend.

After 20 years of democracy, only about 8% of the land has been bought by the governing party through its policy of “willing buyer, willing seller”.

There is consensus that the policy is a disaster that maintains the pattern of colonial land ownership. It moves from the premise that land held by whites is legitimately acquired and has to be bought back – only if the land owner agrees.

The state policy on land is not designed to end the colonial relations with land ownership, which started in 1652 with the arrival of white colonial settlers from Europe.

On the other hand, the EFF moves from the radical premise that land in South Africa is stolen property. If it is stolen, from whom was it stolen and by whom? The EFF response is that South African land was stolen from Africans by white settlers.

The consequence is that by 1913, blacks were forced on to 13% of the land and forced to be servants and labourers on white-owned farms, mines and industry.

Land dispossession goes hand in hand with making people property-less labourers who must work for others to live. The historic land dispossession has a powerful impact on the daily lives of our people today.

Land redistribution to the people is a foundation for redressing historical injustices, economic regeneration and the realisation of reconciliation based on justice. The EFF’s land policy says all should have equitable access to land.

This principle affirms the antiracist commitment of most liberation movements where even the settler is not excluded from the benefits of decolonisation.

Accordingly, land must be taken from current land owners, put under the ownership of the state and all must apply for land use in a simple process.

The policy proposals say all people over the age of 18 who are in need of land must be allowed to get land on a renewable 25-year licence of land use.

No land should be sold because it should belong to the state and used by people according to their needs. To avoid politicians helping themselves to land, the policy says they should be served last.

These proposals are driven by the principle of “land expropriation without compensation”. But thisis in direct conflict with the Constitution, which prescribes for compensation when land is redistributed.

To get around this challenge, a number of proposals are put forward, including the offer of the 6% votes the EFF has, which, if accepted by the ANC, achieves the two-thirds majority required to amend the Constitution.

The ANC has rejected this generous, albeit revolutionary, offer. All indications are that it has abandoned even the 30% redistribution target that was to be met this year. As things stand, the ANC has a series of meaningless bills and laws that have nothing to do with our land reforms.

This makes its refusal to take the offer and legally empower itself to return land more bizarre. Some say only cowardice explains this strange behaviour.

The discussion document anticipates that the proposals to amend the Constitution should be rejected by the ANC and the DA and it proposes a referendum based on the question: “Should we buy back our stolen land?”

This referendum seeks to move participation on this important matter from Parliament to the millions of our citizens.

Participation in developing a pro-people land policy is not limited to legislative processes, but the EFF also supports the people’s initiative to return to their land. Land occupation is the legitimate action of the people and must be supported.

The paper also warns about the possible backlash from global capital against land redistribution as was done in Zimbabwe. Measures to deal with this eventuality are proposed, including learning from new experiences such as that in the Philippines.

Delegates at the assembly are burdened with the task of coming up with a policy decision to end the land redistribution crisis of the past 20 years.

This decision will have to realistically evaluate what the EFF must do and to push for the return of land where it is not in power, while preparing to capture state power in the future.

It was Frantz Fanon who located the importance of land for the colonised people when he said land “will bring them bread and, above all, dignity”.

Mngxitama is the EFF’s land commissar

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