Adriaan Basson

Dear President Ramaphosa, it's time to visit Hermanus

2018-03-27 09:41
Red Ants move to stop a land occupation in Overstrand (Facebook)

Red Ants move to stop a land occupation in Overstrand (Facebook)

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2018-03-16 15:51

News24 Editor Adriaan Basson and Opinions Editor Alet Janse van Rensburg discuss the announcement that criminal charges against former president Jacob Zuma will be reinstated. Watch live.WATCH

It is increasingly clear that the ANC-led government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has, with respect, no clue how to deal with the fallout over the adoption of a motion to consider land expropriation without compensation.

EFF councillors are victoriously leading their followers to the Promised Land, white racists have found a new hero in a nutty Australian minister who treats them like refugees, and the DA is warning its supporters in Fourways that the land occupiers will come for their townhouses next.

On Monday the police had to fire teargas and rubber bullets at protestors in Hermanus in the Western Cape – many of them identified as EFF supporters – who came to occupy the land. A factory was burned, flats and cars were stoned and razed, a police station was set alight, and foreign shopkeepers were assaulted and chased away. The majority of victims were black.

Let’s rewind to December 2017: Ramaphosa’s camp had just won the ANC’s national elective conference with the narrowest of margins (179 votes) and was exhausted after having to physically protect every delegate to ensure their votes weren’t bought.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that during the rest of the conference there was zero to little appetite for policy debates, and expropriation without compensation became the battle cry of the losing Zuma faction.

The euphoria of the moment created a vacuum for the ANC to adopt a policy that they had fought against tooth and nail when it was first suggested in the legislature by the EFF.

Of course this does not mean that Ramaphosa, nor every right-thinking South African who understands our history of brutal exploitation, does not and should not want to expedite the process of land reform and economic transformation of the majority.

The spatial design of Hermanus and surrounding areas is a prime example of how the legacy of apartheid continues to flourish: the white people live in "main town" Hermanus, black people in Zwelihle and coloured people in Hawston.

But as almost every lawyer or academic who have opined on the matter by now have expressed: you don’t have to change the Constitution to expropriate land, even without compensation.

Stop the corruption and get the rural development department to actually function and you will see results before next year’s election.

The adoption of the EFF-sponsored motion by the ANC was undoubtedly the result of two political considerations: offering a boon to the defeated ANC faction to keep them "inside the tent" and luring back the EFF to Luthuli House by making them feel special.

That is unfortunately of little consequence to the mechanic whose car was torched in Hermanus on Monday by protesters hungry for land. Ramaphosa’s promise that "as we take the land, we must make sure that the economy and food security is not compromised" rings hollow to the workers and owners of the factory that was burnt down or the Somali shopkeepers whose livelihood was destroyed.

Ramaphosa and his government are no longer in control of this matter and a prolonged constitutional debate by the review committee in Parliament will not deter land occupiers from claiming their stake.

After similar protests in Centurion, Sandton, Cape Town and Buffalo City, it is now clear that that SAPS will have to deal with the fallout over land expropriation until our politicians have made up their minds.

This means more rubber bullets, teargas, broken glass and shattered dreams in the weeks and months ahead.

This isn’t fair or morally defensible. As long as we have property rights, the police have no option but to act against trespassers.

Ramaphosa should cancel his morning jogs for a visit to Hermanus and Zwelihle this week. This issue is fast becoming the hallmark of his tenure – he should be seen to be at the frontline dealing with this very precarious matter.

- Basson is editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter @adriaanbasson

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  hermanus  |  land expropriation
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