A historic moment in post-democratic South Africa was marked on 27 February, 2018. The motion tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters to expropriate land without compensation was passed by an overwhelming majority of 241 votes in agreement, and 83 votes against. It saw unity of principle and the content of the speeches by those in agreement gave not only an apt historical account of South Africa’s history, but a hope that the EFF may play a pivotal role in organising and sharpening leftist ideals in our country.
The act of a radical policy being passed through a legislative process shows not only sophistication but a thorough understanding of strategy and tactics by the EFF. Land dispossession in South Africa, although marred by barbaric violence, was also a legislated policy. The oppression of exploitation of the black majority was rationalised under a parliamentary and judicial framework. This means it is engrained in history and in policy that perpetuates the dire conditions the black majority exists in in this country.
The ability to reverse this process in the same manner with qualitative arguments and sound policy frameworks shows a level of political maturity and capacity that is rare to find in the South African political landscape.
Central to the resolution is the agreement not to compensate when expropriating land. This comes from an understanding that it is unreasonable to expect compensation for land theft and the criminal process of colonialism. It would be justifying the rational of dispossession as an acceptable fact and rewarding theft. It simply should not be done and the debates in Parliament expressed that succinctly.
There remain however, distorters of history who wage feeble arguments against the motion of land expropriation without compensation. These are people who not only have failed to diagnose the contemporary economic inequalities of South Africa, but people who fail to conduct a proper diagnosis of the structural consequences that come with not resolving what has been coined as “The Original Sin”. These detractors are, in terms of the debate, Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus and Mosiuoa Lekota of the Congress of The People.
Groenewald has a completely misguided analysis of history and frankly is an outright liar. He asserts that land was in fact never stolen from the African people and that a means of trade occurred. Along with his candid declarations of a civil war against a democratic process of amending legislation, Groenewald makes a meagre attempt at creating victims out of the privileged white minority in the country. He completely ignores the historical fact of the 100 year wars waged in the Eastern Cape in defence of the land from British invaders. He completely disregards the battles of Chief Moshoeshoe in Basotho land against the over-zealous Voortrekkers. He conveniently forgets the Battle of Isandlwana where the dignity and sovereign reign of the Africa nation was defended.
Groenewald fails to contextualize these battles as what they are. A defence of the land and the freedom of black people from exploitative settler colonialists. He fails to understand that colonialism and apartheid are instances of structural violence that continue to determine the ownership of the means of production in South Africa and the blatant prosperity of a minority at the expense of a black majority that wallows in poverty.
In his mind, the white minority has attained its status in South Africa through hard work and determination. He is a type of person that would never agree to progressive and radical altering of the economic realities of South Africa because he and the people he represents benefits from the status quo. He is not to be taken seriously, but his threats of civil war against the state should be. Groenewald says: “If anybody in South Africa thinks that you can take the land without compensation you are living in a dream. If you want civil war in South Africa, do that.” Well our dream has become a reality, and should any violence ensue against the state for this resolution Groenewald should be one of the first people held responsible.
Ntate Mosiuoa Lekota however is a far more peculiar case. Peculiar because as misguided as his views may be they stem from a failure to grasp the ideological principles of revolution, struggle and why our current economic realities cannot remain unchallenged. They can also be accredited to the language used in our Constitution as well as the Freedom Charter adopted in Kilptown in 1955.
Both of these documents have the undertones of unity and reconciliation before justice and equity, a central theme that characterises South Africa. It is the infatuation of balancing the aspirations of non-racialism and an egalitarian society, with the reality of having to change the overtly racialised economic power dynamics that exist in the country.
It is the ambiguity of “The land belongs to all who live in it” and the protection of property rights as enshrined in the Constitution and Sunset Clauses that contribute to the confusion that plagues Lekota. The question of who our people are in a post-democratic South Africa is founded on reconciliation and politics but not economic freedom.
Of course the complete loss of political consciousness of a once staunch Black Consciousness leader is also a large factor in his failure to interpret the skewed racial dynamics in South Africa and historical events that created them. To answer Lekota briefly: our people when we refer to the land question are black people. The dispossessed and landless masses of South Africa. These individuals are not colourless entities but are black people and this is not a mistake of nature but a condition engineered by the forefathers of those who currently own 72% of the land in South Africa.
This land cannot be bought by the same state that has little control over our economy for our people. This land cannot be bought back by our people as they have been condemned as a majority to townships and poverty. How then do we best return land to those who are a majority in the country? We expropriate it without compensating those who are already wallowing in stolen wealth.
February 27, 2018 marks a day when the tide turned. A day where finally the ruling party gave in to an idea that was at the inception of the fight against colonialism. It is a victory for black people, it is a victory for Africa. It is now the duty of the media, activists and scholars to spread the message. It is a gain we must protect for those who died in the struggle. It is a gain we must fulfil for future generations. DM
Sinawo Thambo is the Provincial Chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command in the Western Cape
Reindeer can see UV light.