Land must be expropriated and equitably redistributed to the poor and needy

Motsoko Pheko

Motsoko Pheko

Africans were dispossessed of land from 1652. Claiming land from 1913 according to section 25(7) of the Constitution will never resolve the land question in South Africa. Repossession of land by the dispossessed can empower them economically and emancipate 57 percent of them from poverty in a country endowed with enormous wealth.

To ensure there is equitable sharing of resources, I propose 12 ways to undertake this gigantic but indispensable task.

l There must be a database to establish how much land is in foreign hands.

l There must be a law or a moratorium prohibiting the sale of land to foreigners. They can have land leased to them for investment and other purposes, but no land must be sold to foreigners. Too much prime land, especially along the coast, is fast becoming foreign-owned.

l The government must evaluate land that is being sold to Africans. Land is becoming unaffordable to those who need it most and are too poor to acquire it. Land prices must be controlled.

l There must be legislation limiting the size of ownership of land. Those who own excessive land and resist the reduction must be highly taxed. The money realised from this tax must be saved in a trust account and used to acquire land for the landless. Training the landless to become successful food security farmers, teaching them to process raw materials for national consumption and international export, as well as how to care for the environment, should be paid for from this trust.

l Large land owners who cooperate with the national agenda of equitable redistribution of land must be subsidised and empowered to compete internationally.

l Excessive land and its resources that are in minority hands must be redistributed among the landless majority. Equality in a democracy means equitable sharing of national resources, not creating extreme wealth for a few and extreme poverty for the majority.

l Research must be conducted on ownership of land per race in South Africa, in order to bring about racial equality. There will be no racial equality without relative economic equality.

The fundamental solution to equitable redistribution of land lies more in land presently owned by the minority population than in land owned by the state. Recent research shows that 77 million hectares of land is in private hands, mainly farms and mines. Only 13 million hectares is state land. The Kruger National Park alone is on 2 million hectares.

l All unused land must be nationalised and used to eliminate squatter camps. These shacks are a disgrace to our humanity.

l More land must be allocated to the rural areas, especially for farming. The land allocated to Africans by the colonial regime through the Native Land Act of 1913 was an act of genocide. It is worse 100 years later.

The poverty in the rural areas is driving people to cities where they become unemployed, homeless and arguably exacerbate crime. This leads to diseases, illiteracy, high child mortality and shorter life expectancy.

l There must be serious dialogue with farmers who own excessive land. They must be challenged on the basis of morality, religion and natural justice. Poverty is the mother of revolutions and farmers need to understand this.

l As a last resort, land must be expropriated and equitably redistributed to the poor and needy. It is a shame today that many Africans struggle even to find land on which to bury their dead. Land is the primary national asset to satisfy the basic needs of its people.

As Tessa Marcus, author of Class and Gender Issues in Land Reforms puts it, "Land is a fundamental component of property relations in every society since it is one of the natural sources essential for social existence. Its distribution is of vital concern to every citizen as it affects basic human rights. Whoever owns land controls access to it. decides the economic and political beneficiaries of production on it; and how the wealth below it is to be exploited."

Houses are built on land. Food and water come from the land. Gold, diamonds, platinum, uranium and oil, gas - all come from the land. Land is a source of employment. Land is life. Without land there is no life. People without land live miserable lives. Land is money and power.

l Land must be used as a form of reparations to compensate for the colonial robbery.

The unfairness of land sharing in South Africa is reflected in the words of C Bundy in Reclaiming the Land. He writes, "The land question is central in South Africa's past, present and future. An entire colonial dispossession accompanied by cheap labour and systematic exploitation, segregation and apartheid has created a society in which 60000 capitalist farmers own 12 times as much land as over 14 million rural poor (Africans). Fundamental to the construction of an unjust, inequitable, repressive and brutal society is an unjust, punitive and untenable allocation of land and land rights."

There can be no genuine freedom if the resources of this country are not shared according to population figures.

l Motsoko Pheko is the former president of the PAC. He writes in his personal capacity.