In the eighteenth century, during the Anglo-French Conference Lord Salisbury once cracked a joke at a dinner table:
“We have been engaged in drawing lines upon maps where no white man’s foot ever trod: we have been giving away mountains and rivers and lakes to each other, only hindered by the small impediment that we never knew exactly where the mountains and rivers and lakes were."
Though such demeaning witticism was in the eighteenth century, it still bear hallmarks of the pain endured by Africans.
To this day, we are still grappling with a subject matter that provokes extreme emotions on both blacks and whites; hence the land redistribution policy needs to be dealt with expeditiously and cautiously. We need to close space and squeeze out alarmists, agent’s provocateurs as well populists who regularly use the genuine concerns raised by the people to whip up emotions with the intention to throw our country into civil war, we should reject any suggestion that leads us, down the Zimbabwe path on land question as it will be very disastrous to economy. Whatever approach and modality we adopted should be a product of constitutionally facilitated process.
The debate on land question has polarised us so deeply along racial lines, to an extent that the debate is emerging as a hot potato which has a capacity to plunge us into civil war. If the recent threads of violence made by the Zulu King are anything to go by, we need to be vary cautious, yet very decisive when managing contradictions on the land policy. We need to find a lasting solution to the land conundrum for the sake of our posterity.
The 2017 National Conference of the ANC and the recent successful motion on expropriation of land without compensation as sponsored by EFF in Parliament, amended by ANC, puts us on a path to bring about a lasting solution to the question of land accessibility by the historically dispossessed and oppressed communities.
The motion seeks to amend section 25 of the Constitution in order to intensify land redistribution by making it legal for the state to expropriate the land in the public interest, however there is admonition in that the change in policy must never undermine agricultural production or food security.
The caveat is a clear directive that the first beneficiaries of the policy on land should be commonage users, who have faced serious frustrations about inaccessibility of the land. For them to make it in the agricultural space, relevant authorities should attend to their main impediments; inaccessibility of the land and insufficient material and veterinary support by relevant departments.
Once the said challenges are addressed, it will be easy for the commonage users to expand into fully-fledged farmers; the commonages should also be seen as launching pad to build black commercial farmers. The users already have a potential to be commercial farmers, but the potential can only come into a full fruition if the environment they operate in is conducive in terms of policies thus the need for hands on involvement of all relevant stake holders.
The government must assist in removing all potholes standing in the way of commonages program. The relevant departments must ensure that the municipalities avail the land, they own as an indication of commitment to the policy on redistribution of the land. The municipalities may decide to sell or rent such land out to the commonage users.
The accessibility of the land owned by municipalities for the commonages program should be an interim measure to ensure proper food production. Whilst the engagements on the modalities of expropriation without compensation are unfolding, the commonage program has to be supported, so as to prepare our people to effectively and efficiently work the land and manage their own farms.
The policy on expropriation without compensation should not be conveniently used to disrupt the economy, particularly food security. Hence the need to use the commonages program as a launching pad to introduce our people in various sectors.
It will also be viable as our communities are already engaged in commonages; they have relevant skills as well as necessary passion. They only need support from our government.
Chabana Chabana (Personal Views)