Flip-flopping on land reform makes ANC sound unsure

A field of maize meal.
A field of maize meal.
Image: Thinkstock

In recent weeks, the ANC has performed a somersault on its land expropriation policy. It has said it now plans to pursue expropriation within the confines of the constitutional framework. This is a significant departure from the language President Cyril Ramaphosa has been using over the last few months.

The wording of the constitution safeguards against arbitrary expropriation and requires "just and equitable" compensation. It is a far cry from the broad-ranging permission to expropriate whatever, whenever, with no compensation, that the government has spoken of.

I welcome this shift from the EFF's chaotic policy, whereby expropriated land is owned by the state, to the position the DA has consistently held on this issue. This is progress.

The DA has been the only party to argue for the protection of property right, and the expansion of property ownership to all. We've championed this most vocally where we govern, giving real home ownership to more than 90000 families who previously had no title deeds to the homes they lived in.

So it is encouraging that the ANC is moving closer to common sense. I hope this latest announcement can be trusted, because it follows a long list of ANC flip-flops on land.

More than a year ago ANC MP Jeremy Cronin said: "I agree, therefore, with former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, that clause 25 is in fact radical in both spirit and in its letter. And I further concur with the judge that it is misguided to blame clause 25 for the weaknesses in land reform."

Cronin's sober conclusion was expanded on by former president Kgalema Motlanthe in his over 600-page High Level Panel Report which, in November of last year, confirmed that: "Experts advise that the need to pay compensation has not been the most serious constraint on land reform in South Africa to date - other constraints, including increasing evidence of corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, lack of political will, and lack of training and capacity have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform."

However, at the 54th ANC national conference in December, after Motlanthe's report was released, the party did a complete about-turn on the issue, and Ramaphosa announced the decision to implement EWC (expropriation without compensation). Ramaphosa had succumbed to the ANC EWC lobby and with it, sided with populism over principle.

Barely a fortnight after Ramaphosa had been sworn in as the fifth president of South Africa, two-thirds of the National Assembly made a decision to set up a committee to look into amending the constitution to allow for EWC.

But then, in an April interview with Bloomberg in London, Ramaphosa said property rights of all South Africans must be protected, and that the land reform process and any future implemented policy would happen within the parameters of the constitution.

This comment was far removed from those made by him in parliament, making it seem like while abroad, the president had one message, but at home he has an entirely different message.

The failure of land reform over the past 24 years is not because of our constitution and its protection of property rights. Land reform has failed because of a lack of political will, widespread corruption, and chronic underfunding.

If you're looking for a party with a serious commitment to meaningful land reform, look for those who are practicing what they preach. Only the DA has done and is doing that.

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