Ramaphosa and Malema are both lying to the country

Together, the ANC and the EFF are attempting to alter the Constitution in order to allow for state grabbing of land. For both party leaders, Ramaphosa and Malema, the issue at stake is not justice, but power.

Part One

Cyril Ramaphosa was meant to be our messiah, the second coming of Mandela.

But now he is working with Malema to turn our country into Zimbabwe, a country with 90% unemployment.

Both have signed onto a motion to begin the process to change Section 25 of the Constitution which forbids expropriation of private property without compensation.

Malema asserts that this is only justice after centuries of colonial dispossession. Ramaphosa argues that this is necessary for radical economic transformation.

Both really see the issue as a means to maintain or gain power, and to capture the faction of the population which believe Mandela’s reconciliation project has either not worked or was a sell-out of the revolution right from the start.

Justice is not their motivating factor. Any fair-minded assessment of the issue of land reform can only lead to the conclusion that land grabs will do what they always do, which is hurt the poorest of the poor, and allow for the terrorisation of legitimate property owners.

Ramaphosa assures us that no expropriation will take place if it disrupts food security and economic stability. That is logically impossible.

Malema wants the state to take ownership of all land in the country, and thus allow for a socialist revolution – one in which the same old thing always happens: citizens are reduced to tenants and clients, and party elites become oligarchists.

There is a reason Zimbabwean labourers rejoiced when white farmers were recently returned to their land. They want jobs. They want security. They are sick and tired of revolutionaries.

Unfortunately in South Africa, government ineptitude and corruption has made many citizens desperate. Equally, radical leftist ideas have infested many black and white elites – ideas based on old Marxist identity politics – the kind of politics that saw Stalin blame economic problems on land-owning kulaks, and which saw Pol Pot and Mao terrorise their urban middle class.

This means our country hangs on a knife’s edge. The Zimbabwean moment has arrived.

But there is still time to pull back. There is still time to convince enough people of the folly of giving in to the radicals on this issue, even if their position seems politically correct and in accordance with the tenets of postmodern social justice.

But to do that, to pull back from the brink, we need to look at the facts and be guided both by them and the common sense ideals of true justice, rather than groupthink and fashionable political ideology.

And before we can do this, we need to re-assess once again our terrible history as a country.

Part Two

Before the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, the region was filled with conflict.

There was the Mfecane, or times of trouble, in which Shaka Zulu, in particular, caused much displacement of land. We had the Boer War, which involved all races, in which British colonial forces quite brutally ended Afrikaner independence. There were periods of slavery too.

All in all, it was a very complex period, in which, certainly, there were many evils done in the name of colonialism, but equally, nobody’s hands were clean. Whether it was Dingane slaughtering Afrikaner women and children, or the British decimating the Zulu nation, bloodshed abounded.

The superior technology of the settlers ultimately meant, however, that they ended up as rulers of the Union, and thus the chief villains of history.

After the Boer War, instead of attempting to reconcile all South Africans, the British and the Afrikaners focused on reconciling only their own two groups (symbolised by the two wings and towers of the Union Building).

This exclusion was starkly implemented by the 1913 Land Act, which restricted where racial groups could own land. 12 per cent would be held by the white government, 74 per cent by the white citizens, and only 13 per cent given to black citizens.

The Land Act is often referred to as the original sin of South Africa, and it is tough to dispute that. The Act was meant to allow for more allocation of land to blacks (just as the homelands were meant to become developed nations), but this never came to fruition. In reality, a huge number of black South Africans became labourers on farms and mines, with some, like Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela, attaining professions such as teachers and lawyers.

From the period of 1913 to 1985, segregation of land ownership would also tragically lead to approximately 3,5 million forced removals.

When the ANC came to power, it was clear that something needed to be done. They set a target of providing for 30 per cent black farmland ownership within a decade, and passed legislation to that effect.

They also agreed in the negotiations to a new constitutional principle that for the sake of economic stability and respect for private property, land restitution would be based on a willing buyer/willing seller principle, or upon a principle of compensating previous owners according to a mutually agreed or court decided price.

All that was required, therefore, was for government to allow a civilized process of land claims, with subsidised restitution or redistribution. Surely this would be another glistening jewel in the land of reconciliation and rainbow colours.

So what went wrong?

Part Three

First of all, it is important to note that many now believe the settlement of 1994 was a sell-out or betrayal of the tenets of the Freedom Charter, written largely by white Communists in 1960, which promised popular ownership of industry and land. (As Thabo Mbeki recently noted to Malema, the land was actually promised to those who work the soil.)

Apparently Mandela was convinced by business and political leaders from around the world that nationalisation and land expropriation would destroy the economy. Even Communist China was busy privatizing a great deal of the economy, and the planned economies of the Eastern Bloc had fallen apart – hence the negotiated settlement.

The problem has been that the ANC has never really delivered on their 1994 land reform policies and equally that there is not really a clamouring amongst large swathes of the country to become farmers, in what is an incredibly tough industry.

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world, and most people would much prefer housing near employment and amenities to farmland – which requires no controversial government intervention. But rhetoric about housing is not nearly as explosive and emotive as rhetoric about land, and it is hard to blame whites for the government’s inability to build houses.

These are not the only ignored facts about land reform in South Africa.

In 1994, the ANC identified that there was about 82 million hectares of farmland in the country. They aimed for black ownership of 30 per cent of that within ten years.

It is hard to measure, but according to research, if you factor in both monetary restitution and land redistribution effectively over 7,6 million hectares of land has been redistributed or paid out in claims deals.

Not quite 30 per cent, but hardly nothing. And these 7,6 million hectares do not even include the land bought on the open market by new black owners.

But the 82 million hectares is probably a misleading figure.

First of all, farmland has probably decreased in total in the country. As said above, we live in a time of urbanization. Close to half our population live in our five biggest cities.

Equally, the state, along with municipalities and tribal authorities, probably own well above 30 per cent of all land already. The state itself owns thousands of farms which it could distribute itself.

One must also remember that vast swathes of South Africa, particularly in the north and north-west of the country, are arid, non-arable regions, which were never occupied by indigenous groups.

The number of commercial farms has also decreased rapidly as farmers struggle in international marketplaces.

In 1994, the ANC decided to discontinue subsidising our mostly white farmers. They also opened our markets to international competition, far above and beyond what they needed to do according to the World Trade Organisation.

It’s no wonder then that our agricultural industry is collectively in huge debt, perhaps close to R200 billion. And the average age of a commercial South African farmer is over 62. It is not exactly an easy and attractive industry to enter.

Secondly, of the redistributed land, over 90 per cent of the new farmers have failed. There is little government support and farming is an incredibly difficult occupation. It requires deep knowledge and experience, the kind that has been passed on and refined from generation to generation.

All of this makes the clamour for land seizure fairly bizarre and totally unnecessary. Land reform has taken place to some extent; government already holds massive amounts of land; huge swathes of land cannot be farmed; and there is little demand from the masses to become farmers.

What needs to be remembered also is the fact that the government has already spent over R100 billion of taxpayers’ money on land reform – taxes that are paid to a great extent by white citizens.

All in all, the land issue is completely invented in order to find somebody else to blame for our country’s problems rather than our government, and thus win political support.

What we really need on the land issue is simply a new government capable of sensibly applying the existing constitutional framework whilst engaging current farmers, aspiring farmers, and labourers to come up with localised solutions to improve agriculture for everybody. That should include people owning their own land, not simply renting from government or chiefs.

The ANC and EFF need to remember that social order and cohesion is a very tenuous thing. Stir up envy and hatred and you quickly find yourself in a downward spiral.

Just ask these people, employees of returning white Zimbabwean farmer, Rob Smart: