by Piet Coetzer

Nationalisation of land

Land ownership battle intensifies

Irvin Jim
The radical campaign for the nationalisation of land without compensation in South Africa has intensified considerably over recent weeks. That this happens despite Julius Malema, the once firebrand president of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), having been removed from the political scene, should come as no surprise. 

In the final run up to the ruling party’s its precursory policy conference next week and national elective congress in December this year, it is no coincidence that the land, and wider nationalisation issue is hotter than ever. In the media and in public debate on this issue, the underlying and core reasons for this phenomenon is often overlooked or misjudged.

This time round the nationalisation campaign also constitutes a threat to the integrity of the country’s constitution, in particular, clause 25 with its provision for duly agreed-upon or court-adjudicated compensation.

That the campaign, by more radical formations within the governing alliance for the nationalisation of land and other strategic economic sectors, did not disappear from the scene with Malema was clear from a number of recent events:

•    At its recent 25th annual congress the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) demanded “that nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, mines, land and strategic and monopoly industries without compensation must take place with speed”; 
•    Numsa’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, also called for the scrapping of the Constitution's clause 25; 
•    There were also attacks on more moderate members of cabinet such as finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the national treasury with calls for the the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macro economic strategy to be immediately  scrapped; 
•    ANCYL vice-president Ronald Lomola warned government and farmers to expect Zimbabwe-style land invasions if land reform policies are not reviewed; and 
•    In a statement after a three-day ANCYL policy workshop aimed at the upcoming ANC policy workshop, the Youth League said that radical economic reform policies should be pursued without apology; driven by redistribution of land and mineral wealth preceded by a scrapping of clause 25 because “it is a hurdle on the road to the redistribution of wealth".

Underlying cornerstone

The underlying cornerstone of the nationalisation campaign can be found in a particular radical interpretation of some aspects of the ANC’s Freedom Charter and the fact that the organisation is still committed to the so-called National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

In a submission to a recent AgriForum conference on the NDR, ownership of and the green paper on land reform, Dr. Anthea Jeffery of the Institute of Race Relations warned that “neither the aims of, nor the underlying philosophy of the NDR have thus far received much attention in the media".

She pointed out that the ANC has continuously committed itself to the implementation of the NDR with its Leninist roots. It has been reaffirmed at every national congress between 1969 and 2007 at Polokwane in successive 'strategy and tactics' documents.

These documents form the basis for policies like cadre deployment, nationalisation of wealth (including land) and the redistribution of wealth.

An ANC discussion document of 2010 declared that its present main aim is to “build a national democratic community that must address historical injustices through the redistribution of land and other resources, affirmative action and the eradication of apartheid production relationships”.

For the 2012 policy conference and congress there is a new discussion document on the table: The second transition; the building of a National Democratic Community and the balancing of powers.

It envisions a second transition that moves beyond democratisation (the focus of the first transition) to "the social and economic transformation of South Africa over the next 30 to 50 years". It suggests that the present constitutional framework “has proved inadequate and even inappropriate for a second social and economic transformation phase”.

Because of inefficient implementation and inadequate management of, among others, land reform programmes there has been insufficient progress with eradication of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. Now there is huge pressure for more radical interventions.

During the discussion of his budget vote in parliament at the end of May President Jacob Zuma accused farmers of neglecting farms earmarked for restitution.

In a  reply statement , Dr. Theo de Jager, deputy-president of AgriSA,  blamed poor administration of the redistribution process for the situation.

Even a successful black commercial farmer who lost his farm without compensation due to land invasion has been waiting for more than a year for a promised replacement farm.

There are several instances where transactions have not been finalised for more than a decade. Then farmers are also only offered 60% of the market value of their land if they are willing to sell.

“Under such circumstances, it cannot be expected anyone in his right mind to continue investing in development of land without certainty that there will be compensation for it,” de Jager stated.

Lack of consensus

There are however also plenty of indications that there is not a consensus within the ANC on the issue of nationalisation.

Statements by the ANCYL about state ownership of all land, the green paper and the draft Land Tenure Security Bill of 2010 all seem to indicate that the creation of a generation of independent black-ownedfarms is not necessarily still an ANC goal.

According to Jeffery, the beneficiaries of land reform “are to be confined to leasehold ownership, while communal land tenure in former homeland areas will be retained. In addition, those who move to the proposed new agri-villages will have nothing but temporary permits to live and farm in these settlements and will be subject to eviction by state officials if they don't farm well enough.

“Far from extending land ownership to many more black South Africans, the 2010 bill and the green paper will bring about incremental land nationalisation.”

She also states that “fortunately, there are many countervailing factors that militate against the success of the NDR. However, there is also no room for complacency. Instead, it is vital to alert South Africans to the threats implicit in the NDR and to do very much more to expose its false premises and damaging outcomes.”


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