Land Expropriation without compensation

 In Politics, South Africa

The land question has once again occupied the centre stage in the politics of South Africa. While Economic Freedom Fighters are credited with bringing the debate back to parliament and forcing the ANC to take a bold step towards expropriation without compensation, land occupation by working class has played a major role in bringing back the debate at the centre stage.

The biggest youth uprising in post -apartheid period through the # Rhodes/ Fees must fall had already made links between fees and the land question. The argument to link the two seekS to address the lack of transformation in the life of black working class. That after so many years of liberation, it is black students that are financially and academically excluded, that black working class woman are still not treated equally in the working place, the apartheid economic model that enriched the few still exist even under democracy.

90% of land is privately owned

While parliament accepted the amendment of section 25 of constitution, that calls for land expropriation without compensation. The process to amend such section of the constitution has to go through parliament process; such process includes public hearings, appointment of parliament land committee and establishment of land commission. In all of this process, working class voice is given very limited space. The voice of business, international investors weighs heavier, thus exposing the undemocratic process of parliament route in addressing working class issues.

While the debate is going on, political parties have made further deliberation on how the issue can be addressed. Land dispossession in South Africa was never legit, fair or democratic. British colonizers waged wars to dispossess Africans, which resulted in 87% of the land in the hands of colonizers. Anyone arguing against land expropriation without compensation should be considerate of how we got here in the first place. Dispossession was not fair from the start and it can’t be fair in correcting the past.

Expectation has been very high that bourgeoisie democracy will address such injustice as the land question. The reality is the opposite of our expectations, the 2017 land audit has revealed that- 90% of land is privately owned. State ownership has been cut to 10% – which is 4 % less from 2013/14 land audit.

The land Audit further revealed that 72% of the land was owned by whites, coloured owned 15%, Indians 5% and blacks 4%- the remaining 4% is co- ownership.

Political willingness to address the land question

The ANC government has been in power since 1994, and has not done enough to redistribute land very effectively. Its respond from concerned business groups has been very disappointing. They have continued to emphasise- land redistribution should not compromise economy, food security and agricultural production.

Such an argument is very weak as it assumes that south Africans food security is covered, that no one goes to bed hungry. It fails to connect land ownership in few hands with economic disempowerment of the majority. Just like Democratic Alliance, it confuses title deeds with land redistribution. Giving people title deeds will not address historical land dispossession.

The current proposal by government is also a joke and a spit in the face of working class communities who have been involved in land struggle from Freedom Park to Philippe in Western Cape. Expropriation will only be focused on abandoned property, properties owned by the likes of Eskom and Transnet, Farms with labour tenants and property bought for speculation. Thus it does not seek to address the issue rather it argues for retainment of status quote.

The EFF

The EFF respond is more detailed as they argue for state ownership and doing away with private ownership. Their proposal seeks to protect mining communities such as Xolobeni, who have fought very hard against mining giants. It argues for uplifment of small farms and the protection of farm workers. The only concern with their documents is its reliance on legislation and parliament process. The very same process that stalled the ANC plan.

It must be noted that the land occupation predates EFF. Bredel in 2001 was among the first areas of my activism, where attempted land occupation was met with state resistance. Communities have proved over a long period of time that mass land occupation is the only way to ensure victory is sustained.

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