ANC needs to clarify land policy

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and four members of the party's top six paid Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini a courtesy visit at his Osuthu Palace in Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.
Cyril Ramaphosa and Goodwill ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and four members of the party's top six paid Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini a courtesy visit at his Osuthu Palace in Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.
Image: Khaya Ngwenya

Visiting Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini at the weekend, newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa reflected on the governing party's new policy on land. According to Ramaphosa, implementing land expropriation without compensation will transform South Africa into the garden of Eden.

In its desperation to survive as governing party beyond 2019, the ANC has rebooted its populism.

Its loud cries about radical economic transformation and now its policy on expropriation without compensation are an obvious response to the EFF which has been championing these issues.

Ramaphosa is revealing that populism is the ANC's modus operandi and not just limited to the political expediency preferred by his predecessor.

His utterances don't sound too different from the sentiments expressed by Zanu-PF leaders in neighbouring Zimbabwe when the government wrested farms from white farmers.

Too often, the mainstream debate on land tends to ignore the question of land as an asset and the importance of individual ownership even for those who farm and live on communal land controlled by chiefs.

In the context of a mixed modern economy, land reform must look beyond use of land for agricultural and subsistence purposes. This is the kind of discussion he should have raised with King Zwelithini, who is a traditional monarch whose system of traditional governance control of communal land.

Given the rapid urbanisation taking place in SA, land reform needs to involve answering the question of how to assist the black majority build up an asset base which will give them access to finance to grow small businesses and participate more broadly in the economy.

Land reform needs to encompass assistance for individuals and communities in villages who already have access to land but lack the implements and resources to make their assets viable.

The ANC stopped short of explaining how it plans to go about its programme of expropriation and how it will prevent the disaster that was land reform in Zimbabwe.

As it stands, Ramaphosa's populist talk can only be seen as an olive branch to the EFF toward a possible coalition deal in 2019.

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