Mahlatse Mahlase

Trump, the land debate and the death of facts

2018-08-23 16:04
US President Donald Trump talks to journalists during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Michael Probst, AP)

US President Donald Trump talks to journalists during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Michael Probst, AP)

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The hair at the back of my hair stood up as I watched the righteous Tucker Carlson on Fox News spew racist rubbish. 

In the rant disguised as an "exclusive investigation on land seizures beginning in South Africa," Carlson told several lies. 

He boldly stated that President Cyril Ramaphosa is seizing land from his own citizens because "they are the wrong skin colour". He called Ramaphosa a racist and condemned former US president Barack Obama as a coward for praising Ramaphosa's government as "inspirational". 

He gave himself the mantle of being a voice for white farmers under siege in their own country and asked why those condemning US president Donald Trump as a racist are not condemning Ramaphosa' government. Of course, the errant Trump was watching and decided it was all worth his government's attention.  

It reminded me of Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago's words this week, when he was on the radio defending the independence of the bank: 

"The tragedy of South Africa's discourse right now is that people do not allow the facts to get into the way of the story they want to push." 

He was referring to politicians but in the land debate, civil organisations have entered the fray.

The Carlson rant on Fox was the culmination of a global campaign by AfriForum and the likes who are against any form of redress. They decided not to correct the false narrative that white farmers are being specifically targeted because of their skin colour and that the Constitution has been changed to seize white-owned farms. Hence, we had the Australian government pledging to prioritise white South Africans looking for asylum. 

But Trump's Twitter intervention was not because he wants to stop the alleged "human rights tragedy" unfolding in our country. Rather, he needed a side show to shift the world's attention from his woes after he was implicated by his former personal attorney in a hush money scheme to protect him from harm during the presidential race. 

The facts are, as painful as the process has been and despite the heightened level of anxiety around land reform, nothing unconstitutional has happened yet. The process to amend the Constitution has started in Parliament, followed by public hearings and written submissions to allow the citizens of this country to have a say. 

Ramaphosa's recent announcement that the ANC will support the amendment of the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation was opportunistic (as all politicians are), but it really was nothing new. While made for political expediency ahead of the 2019 elections, his late-night statement was in fact fairly balanced – the party wants the Constitution to be clearer on allowing expropriation and the conditions under which it can happen. 

The problem is, after the party's lekgotla and eight months after the resolution on expropriation, we are still in the dark about how the policy will be implemented and that is where the crux of the matter is. 

The EFF, despite pushing strongly for land expropriation without compensation, has failed to give its own concrete plan on how once all the land is nationalised, it will be redistributed. Never mind how government will implement this policy when it battles to account for properties the state already owns.

The parties have no real action plans for people who have little interest in the commercial farms that are feeding us, but are desperately looking for houses closer to their place of work so that they can stop spending most of their salaries on transport and instead invest in their children's future to hopefully break the vicious cycle of poverty. Some just want title deeds to their current homes so that they have security of tenure or some collateral and an option to leave an inheritance for their families. 

I have very little hope that after South Africans poured out their pain of being landless in the country of their birth, while eking out a living in the periphery while the haves (mostly white people) continue being first class citizens, their dignity will be restored any time soon. Or that the enduring spatial planning from apartheid will end.

It will not be because of the Constitution, even if it is amended, but it will be because of a government with no institutional capacity to implement whatever policy they decide on.

So, can we stop the fear mongering, racial rants and political expediency currently playing out and start talking solutions? As for America and its racists – can they please back off and allow us to deal with our own problems?

- Mahlase is politics editor of News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  land expropiation  |  land
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