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Is the ANC getting the land question wrong?

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Is the ANC getting the land question wrong?


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

The ANC must frame the land question differently to reflect its proud history and principles — and at the same time ensure it merges its efforts and those of private capital to find lasting solutions.

A recent leaked memo from the Thabo Mbeki Foundation makes bold that the current approach to the land question taken by the ANC is inconsistent with the proud history of that liberation movement. In fact, the pamphlet goes to great lengths to demonstrate why the approach is not in keeping with the non-racial, non-sexist and democratic principles of the ANC.

It reminds us all — among other events — of the internal strife in the ANC in 1958 with the “gang of eight”, who after the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 as the guiding principle document of the ANC and hence an accommodation of white South Africans as part of the peoples of SA, could no longer associate themselves with the ANC. They subscribed to “narrow, racialistic and chauvinistic nationalist tendencies”. The ANC at the time could not stand for this and hence they were expelled.

Framing the land question differently is rather important, Mbeki indicates. But this was merely one aspect of the pamphlet.

Another equally important matter that the pamphlet alludes to is that the ANC can only accomplish this very difficult feat on the land question with the help of private capital.

I highlight this point only because failure to do so will result in a further antagonistic exercise. What I mean by this is that if, by adopting this approach on “land expropriation without compensation”, the ANC effectively is pitting whites and blacks against one another, then so too will it mean that if private capital is not part of the solution on the land question, the ANC will be seen to be attacking the fundamental premise of the capitalist system – private property rights.

A Marxist view tells us that private property relations are the cornerstone of the capitalist society, hence the response by most towards Zimbabwe and its approach to the land question. I must, however, point out that our and theirs were two very distinct struggles. In the case of Zimbabwe, their entire struggle was premised on the land question, hence during their negotiations for finding lasting solutions to the socio-economic challenges post-colonialism, the question of land was most integral, hence the Lancaster House Agreement.

In the case of South Africa, however, our liberation struggle was first and for most premised on universal suffrage, meaning our political rights before anything else. Economic emancipation was a distant second priority albeit equally important.

I think what the pamphlet was actually trying to communicate to us all is the fact that if we are to safeguard the gains we have made post-1994 and if we want to stabilise both our social, political and economic futures in South Africa, we had better ensure that we don’t fall prey to narrow, racialistic and chauvinistic tendencies, which the likes of the EFF and AfriForum leaderships promote in our political discourse.

In keeping with safeguarding our South African gains, the question must also be asked as to what the international community is doing to aid in the speedy resolution of this complex matter.

What are you doing to preserve the so called “miracle “of the Rainbow Nation? It is common cause that when one implements populist tactics to solve such complex problems the international community is quick to take action in the form of sanctions, withdrawing of diplomatic relations and cutting all trade and aid from you. Yet, we all have an opportunity presented to us by the South African president to do the right thing and to do it properly, within a rules-based environment.

I need not remind anyone domestically or internationally of the bona fides of Cyril Ramaphosa. You all once trusted him to deliver a world class Constitution under very severe conditions; why can you not trust him again now?

In short, the ANC must frame the current land question differently to reflect its proud history and principles — and at the same time ensure it merges its efforts and those of private capital to find lasting solutions.

All this we encourage the ANC to pursue, so that it ultimately, as the pamphlet states, does not fall prey to “narrow racialistic and chauvinistic nationalism”. It was defeated then, with reason, it must be defeated now, with reason. DM


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