Motlanthe on land reform: MPs more interested in theatrics than lawmaking

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe believes the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)  is "pandering" to the interests of traditional leaders above communities, in order to garner votes. 

Addressing a discussion held by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection in Sandton on Wednesday night, the former president accused Parliamentarians of taking their guidance as lawmakers from members of the executive.

Due to the proportional representation system, Motlanthe said, parties are eager to gain bigger chunks of the vote and have "no other interests beyond this short-term objective".

"For some reason, in this day and age, they believe these traditional leaders can deliver these votes of those tribes, and these communities have no way of deciding to vote independently," Motlanthe said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa promised King Goodwill Zwelithini in July that land held under the Ingonyama Trust, and other communal land controlled by traditional chiefs, would not be touched.

Motlanthe has clashed with traditional leaders over his views on land reform, and an October Constitutional Court ruling on the Maledu and Others v Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources case.

According to Dr Aninka Claassens, director of the Land and Accountability Research Centre in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town, the landmark judgement means that people directly affected by mining must consent to any changes affecting their land rights, whereas previously pay-offs had gone to traditional leaders.

MPs not interested in lawmaking

"If you go by the theatrics, members of Parliament are not interested in lawmaking," Motlanthe bemoaned.

He believes the ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) policy positions on expropriation without compensation are being advanced by people who do not want to deal with land reform. Changing the status quo requires amending existing legislation, he argued.

There are three possible approaches, according to Motlanthe: granting title deeds to people in urban areas or townships, where the majority of the "land hunger is"; granting farm dwellers and labourers security of tenure; and using GPS technology to survey where people live in rural areas and villages, recording their land uses and rights.

"The reason some people have access to land and title deeds…historically, laws were used to exclude huge sections of the population. [We] need to pass laws that address that," Motlanthe said.

These recommendations are contained in the High-Level Panel report assessing key legislation. The panel was chaired by Motlanthe, and made its findings public in November 2017.

Not rocket science

Motlanthe said that the majority of South Africans being dispossessed of land was a source of "national grievance", and MPs should address this through legislation.

"It’s really not rocket science. It’s not complicated at all."

He warned that the issue of "land hunger" would lead to a situation characterised by anarchy, which might be impossible to bring under control. It would be better to undertake land reform within the framework of the law, he argued.

Motlanthe said he didn't think there would be resistance to "an orderly way of addressing this grievance" and pointed to commitments by organised agricultural business lobby AgriSA as a beacon of hope.

He brushed off a stinging rebuke by Zwelithini and other traditional leaders, saying they wanted to lead dispossessed people, and they should instead strive to be leaders of people who owned the land they occupied.

Parliament is expected to debate whether the Constitution should be amended to allow expropriation without compensation between November 26 and 28.

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