Cape Town - While lawyers Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Luleka Flatela each have their own suggestion for expropriating land without compensation within the Constitution, community activist Matigari Sibeko believes the South African state is a colonial project and can never achieve this goal.
The intellectuals were debating whether the National Assembly’s motion to investigate the expropriation of land without compensation will yield the desired results of land reform, restoring land and property rights to dispossessed black South Africans.
Sibeko gave an animated speech to students at the University of Cape Town, getting the most vocal reaction from the audience when he said that the question must be understood “at a historical and philosophical level”.
He said Parliament does not have the will or the means to expropriate land for owners without compensating them, because Parliament is an instrument of a state created, and still controlled, by “colonial powers”.
“Parliamentarians are pretending to do something about this in Parliament. The Parliament and the democracy we talk about today is a mirage because democracy and parliamentary democracy is an expression of class power, and we as the people have none.
“We were conquered and SA was built on our backs. We were never South Africans until 1994 and even then we were given access (to) assimilate into the master’s house. We became glorified house n*****s,” Sibeko said.
He said, while he is convinced there will be attempts to expropriate land without compensation once amendments are finalised, the motion was never meant to work to the benefit of black South Africans because the land question cannot be resolved through Parliament.
“It is not necessarily anti-colonialist to expropriate. Colonial nations do that themselves. What I am saying is the spirit of our fight is being diluted. We don’t want coexistence. We don’t want to coexist with imperialism. Mao says imperialism grew and thrived off the enslavement of black people and will end the day that all black people are free,” he said.
Sibeko said meaningful land reform is not meant to keep South Africa in a state of stability, “but to a higher synthesis that takes humanity beyond the shadows of a dark past we suffer because of capitalism, colonialism and imperialism”.
“Our mission is so huge you cannot enter into a space of struggle on the basis that other people will come to help you and that you can blame them when it goes wrong. We enter deliberately and with the known potential of the consequence, good or bad. You enter the revolution to conquer. You can only lead the world if you conquer it first,” he said.
Ngcukaitobi contended that while government has not noted any meaningful success in land expropriation since the advent of democracy, he still believes the battle for land expropriation without compensation will be lost or won through the Constitution.
'Govt is scared to take land'
Flatela said the ANC-led government has the necessary tools to expropriate land but is essentially gutless in its efforts to do so to the benefit of dispossessed South Africans.
She said government seems scared to expropriate and does not know enough about the land ownership patterns of South Africa to make a significant difference.
“Section 25 protects the rights of land owners from the 1800s till 1913. The 1913 legislation was really about consolidating crumbs, but by that point much land was already taken. The land restoration was allowed much later and subjected to proof of dispossession.
“If this expropriation is meant to answer the land question, it will not. There is already an expropriation act from the 1970s which allows for expropriation for public purposes but not one expropriation bid in for this purpose was launched. And government is scared to do it,” Flatela said.
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