EFF land dream: Turning South Africa into one big Bantustan — for the impoverishment of the people
Here we go South Africa, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the youngest socialist party of South Africa, led by Julius Malema, will eradicate all poverty, using the very same tried and failed policies of the Soviet era.
If the Economic Freedom Fighters has its way, it will one day come into government and immediately expand the apartheid policy of dispossessing black people of whatever they may have regained of their land acquired since 1994.
The party would implement a much bigger Bantustan than that dreamt up and perpetrated by the founders of the evil racial policy, and the land policy of dispossession stretching back to the days of colonialism. This would be the effect of the EFF’s land policy — which seeks to strip all of the right to own and possess land.
This right to land ownership and control would vest in the hands of the state.
“The resolution of the land question in South Africa is the most important resolution needed for the emancipation of all South Africans and the ushering in of economic freedom in this lifetime,” says the EFF in its Land Reform, Agrarian Reform And the Food Economy, the chapter on land reform in the document tabled for discussion at the party’s recent national elective conference, or the people’s assembly.
The EFF says “land expropriation without compensation for equal redistribution and use” is the first among its seven founding cardinal pillars. This will be achieved by dispossessing everybody who owns land in South Africa. That, of course, includes dispossessing — again — the very black people who may have clawed back some of the lands they lost to colonial, apartheid and Bantustan dispossession by either buying the land back since 1994, or winning it back through the government’s restitution programmes.
“Attainment of economic freedom entails that multinational and private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy will be discontinued, and all economic wealth directed to the ownership and benefit of all people,” says the EFF in its manifesto.
“This will happen through various and combined forms of common and collective ownership, ranging from state ownership and control, co-operatives and workers’ ownership and control of the key sectors of the economy. State ownership is within this context, an elementary component which will lead to more progressive forms of collective ownership, control and benefit, and therefore not narrow state-capitalism.”
The party’s deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, explained this in simple terms at a media briefing a day ahead of the conference:
“The state will be the custodian of all land. It will own all the land. Everybody who needs land will apply to the government for permission to use the land, clearly stipulating what it is the land will be used for. The state will licence them to use the land for a period of 25-30 years, to use it strictly for that stated purpose,” said Shivambu at the EFF headquarters. “There will be no title deeds” that give anyone ownership of the said land.
Now, for this native of the Republic of Transkei, the biggest of the Bantustan quasi-republics created to impoverish black people under the visionary and evil leadership of the then minister of Bantu Affairs, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the EFF’s land policy would turn all of South Africa into one massive Bantustan. In such a country, as it is today in the former Transkei, nobody would own land in their own right. In that part of the Eastern Cape, as well as in Ciskei, the other Bantustan in that province, the land is common property owned by everybody.
That means nobody owns the land. As such, nobody is able to use the land as a basis for any economic activity or wealth creation. In today’s Transkei and other former Bantustans, this thus defeats the very purpose of achieving the economic freedom the EFF is propagating through land reform. The reason is simple: that which is owned by everybody is in reality owned by nobody.
This scribe “owns” some pockets of land in the Transkei, courtesy of my landed late grandparents. But, like the rest of the landed Transkeians, we are all upcountry selling our labour to the mines and other industries in order to make ends meet, and to hopefully acquire for ourselves the real means of economic freedom — capital.
Just like the Zimbabweans, who now own all the land back home, we have left it behind and come to the parts of the country where land is still owned and controlled by those who acquired it.
The land we left back home is, without any title deeds and security of ownership, useless as a currency for economic capital. For starters, I cannot sell any piece of the land to anybody. For they can always find another piece of land for a nominal fee from the chief. Thus the supply of land is unlimited. As such, it holds no economic value for those who possess it.
In such a state, should I wish to approach a bank for a loan to acquire some livestock to graze on the land, I would not be able to offer the bank sufficient immovable security for the capital. The letter I would obtain from the chief, stating that I am a resident of the area, would not be enough to give comfort to the bank that, should I fail to keep my end of the bargain in terms of servicing my debt to it, the bank would be able to find a buyer willing to pay for my land. Thus no sensible bank would use the communal land as security for any loan. Dead capital the land would be, much as the untitled urban land in the townships.
At any rate, the ANC government has already beaten the EFF to the Bantustanisation of the land. The Traditional & Khoisan Leadership Act of 2019, signed into law recently by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has cemented this form of land tenure that was designed by colonialism to vest all rural lands to the control of traditional leaders who proved useful to the authorities in the oppression of the people.
Good thing is that the EFF reckons it would only come into power in about 15 years’ time. In such a case, we all have some time to either prepare to live in a much larger and poorer Bantustan than even Verwoed had envisioned, or plan our estates to cope with the EFF’s eccentricities.
Thinking people, of course, know that the only way to reform land tenure properly is to give security of ownership to all who currently have access to property, such as the residents of the township who inherited their municipal houses after 1994. For the rural folks, such as I am, the only way to extend “the means of production” (as the EFF calls capital) to them is to map the land and give them title deeds, which would give them the real means of production.
So we shall continue pretending that stripping people of their dignity and right to ownership of property has succeeded anywhere in the past. Of course, to expropriate all land within the borders of the country — without paying compensation for a single hectare — is not the only outdated and failed policy of the EFF.
The party led by Julius Malema also believes it has a solution for the problems of collapsed state entities that have dragged the economy down with them. Be those municipalities, the companies owned by the state SOEs, or government departments themselves, the EFF will fix them once it comes into power in about 15 years’ time. The first thing the party will do is repeal the Public Finance Management and the Municipal Finance Management Acts, said Floyd Shivambu, the deputy president of the EFF.
This will be done as the state will not have a need to contract outside parties to help it build infrastructure, be that roads or toilets or installing electricity.
“The state will have its own internal capacity where it will do things for itself, without needing private contractors,” says Shivambu. “If a municipality needs to build a road, it will just go ahead and build it.” No longer will it need to go searching for the lowest-priced service provider in a tender process.
This is what the EFF calls rebuilding the capacity of the state to respond to the needs of progressive public.
“A strong developmental state should necessarily have political power and technical capacity to give developmental mandates to state-owned enterprises,” reads the EFF manifesto. “This perspective is informed by both current and historical examples of the critical role SOEs have played in the development of national economies. Throughout much of the developed and developing world, economies and industrial capacity has been built on the back of SOEs.”
So, in the same manner that many of the newly-liberated Asian economies after colonialism also used SOEs and state-led interventions to drive the development of their countries and transform them into industrial powers, so will the EFF government. On how this massively revolutionary feat will be achieved in a climate where all SOEs and many of the municipalities have virtually collapsed under the weight of corruption, the EFF says:
“The current SOEs will also need to be strengthened and recapacitated with clear developmental mandates.”
While still trying to revive the dinosaurs that are Eskom, South African Airways and the SA Broadcasting Corp, the EFF will also create many totally new entities to replace the private tenderpreneurs who have been feeding off the state for their own benefit for a quarter of a century. Among these will be a state-owned housing construction company, roads construction company, a cement company, various state-owned banks, a pharmaceutical company, healthcare equipment company, a mining company and a food-stocking company.
“To ensure good governance, best practices and the fulfilment of their developmental mandates, a State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission will need to be established,” says the EFF, before adding this critical bit:
“These state companies will be buttressed by state ownership of critical parts of the value chains in which these companies operate, e.g. petrochemicals (Sasol), steel (Arcelor-Mittal), etc. so that they produce essential inputs into the economy on a non-profit-maximisation basis.”
Just like SAA now, Eskom and the SABC, these companies will “fulfil the mandate of fast-tracking economic development and providing quality services to our people, they will need the necessary human resources and technical skills, and they will not operate on the basis of profit maximisation, but rather on their ability to meet these two core mandates.”
Of course, the EFF also wants every employee to be paid a minimum of R4,500 a month, regardless of their vocation… So here we go, South Africa, the youngest socialist party of South Africa will eradicate all poverty, using the very tried and failed policies of the Soviet era. DM
Sikonathi Mantshantsha, alongside all Daily Maverick colleagues and all those who work for investigative units amaBhungane, Scorpio, Framework and Rapport, was banned and denied accreditation to attend the recent EFF conference. See Daily Maverick’s statement here.