In our land of blameless calamity

2018-07-08 10:06

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A visitor, who arrived in the Republic of South Africa as this year entered its second half, says she found a nation whose social fabric was in an advanced state of distress, and where no one ever takes the blame.

She picked up that this was due to unresolved historical issues around land and the economy.

She also found an amazing level of lack of attention to demands for personal accountability, especially among individuals in public office.

The raging debate about land is, in the minds of most black people, about restitution, not necessarily limited to what was dispossessed after 1913, but going back to the inception of colonisation, when Jan van Riebeeck and his Dutch settlers landed their ship in the Cape in 1652.

The demand is for the restoration of land to the indigenous people who are considered to be the rightful owners of land that was taken away, lost or surrendered through conquest.

Three and a half centuries on, democracy and enfranchisement have since changed the equation, and made the ballot mightier than the bullet of yore. What they want to see is the act of making good or compensating for loss, damage or injury attendant to that dispossession.

A return to or restoration of the previous physical state or position is, of course, almost impossible. Hopefully this is understood by all sides to constitute the premise of the land debate.

Our visitor will have come upon a situation in which King Goodwill Zwelithini was barely able to restrain in his anger at the prospect of losing control of the Ngonyama Trust, in the manner recommended by former president Kgalema Motlanthe. His High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change has essentially recommended that the 17 million people living on communal land, most of it under the Ngonyama Trust, be given security of tenure.

This has nothing to do with land expropriation as envisaged in Section 25 of the Constitution. On the contrary, it has everything to do with giving people customary rights on their land.

This is a matter that requires careful management, given the impact of the proposals on the powers of traditional leaders.

What Fikile Mbalula and the ANC, which he claims has no position on this matter, must understand is that what this recommendation boils down to is making a choice between the rights of ordinary South African citizens wherever they live and the privilege of traditional rulers.

King Zwelithini, as is his wont, threatens the ANC, saying he will compel his subjects to deny them the vote.

Mbalula, who leads the ANC election campaign, squirms. He must understand there are times when people, and organisations, must stand for principles. Nothing will be lost for an organisation that is in touch with the people and understands their needs.

While land simmers, the VBS bank saga also requires attention.

The appointment of a commission of inquiry by the SA Reserve Bank to determine what went wrong and when, must be welcomed. But what is to be made of the senseless splurge on luxurious acquisitions for the directors and for King Ramabulana?

He is offered a house in Dainfern and luxury cars worth R11 million? He also believed he was given a R12 million Bell helicopter? How could he believe such gifts were possible?

Our winter visitor also learnt about millions of poverty-stricken citizens, 55% of the national population, who have been condemned to their dire straits largely by the failure of successive governments to oversee a caring – Batho Pele notwithstanding – economic development strategy.

Some of these ill-fated compatriots receive a pittance in the form of a grant that is delivered by a government agency that has failed to deliver this pittance on time.

Three times the SA Social Security Agency failed to arrange, by order of the Constitutional Court, a legal tender process to ensure a cost-effective and efficient delivery of services for their beneficiaries.

In the land of no consequences, our esteemed visitor found out that the author of such a tragic fiasco has gone unpunished. Spare a thought for the long-suffering women of South Africa for they are expected to accept ministerial appointments with equanimity. Perhaps they don’t think much of the portfolio.

The Road Accident Fund has forever and a day been an accident waiting to happen. In fact, by the time new transport minister Blade Nzimande dismantled its board, the accident had already happened.

The organisation that receives 12% of the money paid by motorists for every litre of petrol they use is insolvent. According to the Sunday Times, it has contingent liabilities of R190 billion. Last year, while it received revenue in the amount of R33.3 billion, it suffered a R34.7 billion loss.

Our visitor asked us about quite a number of other startling South African discoveries she made, but that’s all we can manage for now.

Read more on:    land

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