AfriForum, Suidlanders raising unnecessary international alarm

Ronald Lamola

The ANC's national conference in Nasrec last year resolved to use, amongst other instruments to expedite the process of land reform, expropriation without compensation. This has refocused the entire national debate on land reform and transformation of property relations in the country.  

The recent surge of land grabs throughout the country points to an urgent need to conclude and settle the debate. Any form of land grabs cannot be condoned or tolerated; the constitutional process must be the glue that binds us together to find a solution for project South Africa on the land question. 

The uncertainty of leaving such an emotive issue unattended is too costly for the country's social and economic stability. The matter must be addressed to bring policy certainty and create a conducive environment for political stability and economic growth. 

The ANC's conference resolution has also awakened extremist and alarmist groups like AfriForum and the Suidlanders to have an international pilgrimage to badmouth the country and link the debate on expropriation without compensation to a "white genocide" on farms. This despite the Human Rights Commission confirming through its research that most incidents on farms are general crime and not hate crimes or linked to racism. Other research conducted on the subject established the same. 

It is precisely because the land has been owned along racial lines in the past that it will be impossible to build a rainbow nation or social cohesion in South Africa without addressing it. It is wishful amnesia by AfriForum to deliberately close their eyes to this dark history and opportunistically pretend as if it never transpired. 

All South Africans, including AfriForum's members, must participate in the project of land reform. It is in the interest of everyone, black and white, that the land question is addressed. 

ANC reconnecting with its historic mission

The Nasrec resolution reconnected the ANC with its historic mission. During the Codesa negotiations the ANC, in terms reminiscent of the Freedom Charter, stated: 

"The land, the waters and the sky and all the natural assets which they contain, are the common heritage of the people of South Africa who are equally entitled to their enjoyment and responsible for their conservation. The system of property rights in relation to the land shall take into account that is the country’s primary asset, the basis of life necessities, and a finite resource."

This position was articulated in the ANC's Bill of Rights for a new South Africa. It also informed the ANC's perspective on the interim and final Constitution. Due to objective conditions at the time, the party had to agree to a compromise on the land question – hence the sunset clause that led to section 25 of the 1996 Constitution. 

Section 25 was a product of robust negotiations and the desire to find a solution from all stakeholders. It is the same spirit that must carry South Africa today through Parliament's review process of section 25.

The past still haunts black South Africans

The systematic marginalisation of the majority of South Africans, facilitated by the exclusionary policies of the apartheid regime, prevented blacks from owning the means of production and from meaningful participation in the mainstream economy. 

Today, around 35% of the population lives in rural areas. They are the most vulnerable and excluded from the formal economy and have limited access to agriculture and mineral resources, and in particular, land. 

Historically, land and all that accrues from it, including natural and mineral resources, and marine and livestock wealth were taken from the majority of black Africans. It is a known fact that 90% of the total population was confined to 13% of the total land surface. The other 10%, the white population, was allocated 87% of the land surface. 

To this day, a significant amount of land remains in the ownership of large scale commercial farmers and private corporations. The government land reform programme has not been able to address fundamentally the legacy of systematic dispossession and land inequalities further compounded by climate change negatively affecting smallholder farmers. 

The Native Land Act of 1913 has resulted in what has been called a country of two economies: a developed core that is well connected to the international economy and a periphery of informal urban settlements and rural areas deprived of opportunities to prosper. The latter is characterised by weak local economies, low wages, casual and seasonal work, low income self-employment and hunger. Inequality in urban South Africa is driven by its racist spatial legacy, where black people were legally and structurally excluded from residing in the cities. This means that black people live in the outskirts of cities, in urban townships with poorer housing and basic services. 

Living far from the economic hubs in our cities, the poor spend nearly 20% of their income on transport (the vast majority being provided by the monopoly of informal minibus taxis). Food and transport together take up around 40% of already low incomes. When acquiring land through reforms, people receive very little extension services, access to market and credit support, and there are few successes where there have been substantial and positive changes to people’s livelihoods. 

The time is now

The above should convince every South African that we need a rethink of the land policy as current policy has clearly not yielded the desired outcomes. It is the right time to review and revisit the policy. 

Between April 1994 and April 2010, the land reform programme had redistributed fewer than 7% of agricultural land, while the vast majority of agricultural land remains in the hands of fewer than 40 000 white farmers. South Africa has distributed less than 7% of the land at the cost of R54bn and most of it ended up in the hands of white commercial farmers, which means white commercial farmers have been the biggest beneficiaries of the existing land reform programme. These exorbitant amounts paid for land are not sustainable. It is also difficult to find a country in the world that has successfully implemented a market driven land reform programme. 

There is wide consensus among legal minds in South Africa that if you consider all the factors stated in section 25(2) of the Constitution, you might arrive at a determination of less than market value compensation. However, we have used market value as the only means to calculate compensation since the inception of the land reform programme and this has government paying white commercial farmers astronomical amounts of money. 

Expropriation not a threat to food security

Expropriation without compensation will enhance food production and food security as it will provide access to land to a new generation of farmers. Statistics indicate that most our commercial farmers are white males at an advanced age. 

It is therefore in the interest of the country and food security that this generation of farmers nurture and mentor a new generation of farmers who can carry on with their legacy to feed the nation.

- Lamola is a member of the ANC's National Executive Committee.

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