Adriaan Basson

Malema has no right to threaten SA on land

2018-07-23 11:55
Julius Malema (Netwerk24)

Julius Malema (Netwerk24)

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There is no denying that EFF leader Julius Malema has played a leading role in elevating the land debate to the centre of South Africa's political discourse.

It was Malema's party that first proposed a motion in Parliament that has led to the establishment of a Constitutional Review Committee, currently conducting public hearings across the country.

The sole purpose of the committee is to investigate whether Section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to allow the state to expropriate land without compensation.  

Malema is arguably the most prominent politician on the committee and has capitalised fully on the ANC's lack of clarity and disparate views on the matter.

It is no secret that President Cyril Ramaphosa is not in favour of changing the Constitution, while others in the ANC are leaning towards the EFF's approach.

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe is on record saying that Section 25 has never been tested in a court of law and that it was premature to discuss constitutional amendments before this has happened. Motlanthe's high-level investigation into the effectiveness of key legislation also blamed the government's corruption-plagued land reform program for slow land redistribution.

The EFF is proposing that all land be nationalised by the state and that citizens are given long-term leases.

The provincial land hearings have provided a fascinating insight into people's differing views on the meaning and purpose of land.

The majority of submissions so far have highlighted the fact that land is not only an economic issue, as it should be, but also a highly emotive matter for black people whose ancestors have been dispossessed of their land through consecutive racist colonial regimes.

Many white farmers have submitted that they bought their farms with loans from the bank and were never given agricultural land for free by the apartheid regime. It is a complicated, nuanced matter that needs nuanced solutions.

This is where Malema is losing the plot.

Instead of waiting for all submissions to be completed, Malema has decided what the outcome should be based on what he deems to be the majority view. This may be an effective, populist election campaign, but it is unfortunately not how democracy works.

Low on detail on how this should happen without completely collapsing the country's economy and food security, Malema made the following remarks in an opinion piece published by the Sunday Times this weekend:

"There is simply no way parliament can retreat on this question any longer. After all these consultations, one thing is clear: to retreat and betray our people on the demand for land expropriation will be to risk a direct revolution, which they will conduct on their own, wherever they are.

"On that day, when our people take the land by force, the EFF will join in because the powers of the day would have refused to co-ordinate a peaceful, democratic and inclusive process that empowers the previously oppressed to have access to the land."

In other words: if the outcome of this committee is not what I want it to be, there will be blood.

In a most irresponsible way, Malema is threatening the country and Parliament were the outcomes of the review committee not as he wants them to be. He is threatening the country with violence if the Constitution is not amended to allow expropriation without compensation.

This follows Malema's remarks to a Turkish broadcaster that white people will not be "slaughtered" under his watch, but that he cannot promise the future should an "unled revolution" occur.

Malema is attempting to position himself as a prophet; as the only one with the knowledge of what black people really want, knowing that most submissions thus far do not agree that the state should own all the land.

This war talk is unbecoming of a Member of Parliament who claims to be a democrat who upholds the Constitution. The committee's co-chairs, Vincent Smith and Lewis Nzimande, should seriously consider rebuking Malema for his remarks.

The land hearings are too important to be captured by a populist politician for his own election campaign.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanBasson

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