COMMENT

Julius Malema's historical grievance

Andrew Donaldson says we need to look deep into our past to understand the EFF's leader's campaign

A FAMOUS GROUSE

LAND reform is a heated business, and President Cyril Ramaphosa is perhaps justified in urging the citizenry to remain calm and not beat war drums and what have you over his government’s reckless jones for expropriation without compensation.

Here at the Mahogany Ridge, there is some opinion that context is needed if we are to fully understand the issue; we must look deep into our history, at the wrongdoings of the past, if we are to have any chance of redressing imbalances in our society.

All the way back, in fact, to 2013, when the failed cabbage farmer Julius Malema was cruelly dispossessed of 139 hectares of agricultural land in Limpopo.

It was, you may recall, a hurtful episode. In March that year, Malema’s R4-million farm had been attached by the authorities in connection with some legal matter, the details of which we needn’t now concern ourselves.

In the weeks that followed, this once-proud son of the soil was ignominiously reduced to pleading with the curator of his estate to postpone the farm’s auction. Alas, it went under the hammer on June 10, 2013, as scheduled, and was knocked down for R2.5-million. Malema was left with nothing.

Now, almost five years later, it is payback time. Parliament has voted in favour of a motion by Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters to review and if necessary change the Constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

This wasn’t the EFF’s first attempt at dispossessing people of their property. Last year, the ANC refused to support a similar EFF motion. 

However, in a desperate attempt to shore up popular support, the ruling party passed a vague resolution at their Nasrec conference in December in favour of expropriation without compensation, or EWC. Now they were compelled to support Malema.

Quite apart from being economically disastrous, EWC is going to be hellishly difficult to legally implement. 

Commentators point out that the foundational values of the Constitution cannot be amended without the support of 75% of the National Assembly — and not two-thirds, as commonly held — and six of the provinces in the National Council of Provinces.

The rule of law is one of those foundational values and — according to advocate Paul Hoffman, director of Accountability Now — a basic tenet of the rule of law “everywhere on the planet” is the security of property rights.

Perhaps Ramaphosa understands this; it would explain his placatory prattle of “dialogue, discussion, engagement” on the issue and that farming “must continue as normal, and investments in land and farming must continue”.

The banks have some difficulty with this. They’ve lent farmers some R180-billion with land as collateral. Wipe out this security, and the entire financial system faces collapse.

Nevertheless, EWC supporters are so insistent that life will go on as before, that no-one will even notice the loss of their rights, that you may well wonder why they even bother.

There is, to give one possible answer, a punitive element here. 

Malema made that clear in his comments about teaching Athol Trollip, the DA mayor of Port Elizabeth, a lesson because the party voted against the EFF’s motion.

“We are going to remove a mayor of PE,” he said on Wednesday. “Because we want to teach these white people that we mean business when we say expropriation of land without compensation. So yesterday DA voted against us and we said, ‘Eh eh, you think we are playing?’ We are going for your white man in PE. We are going to cut the throat. Just to show you that we too don’t owe you anything.”

Further agricultural outbursts from Malema duly appeared on social media. There was this one, for example: “Chinese are like Indians. They think they’re close to whiteness. When they practice racism they even become worse than whites. There are even Blacks who mimic whiteness. All of this needs to be confronted.”

But more germane to proceedings was this: “Every title deed will be meaningless and the state will be the custodian of all the land. The government will then outline what use will land be for.”

This is interesting. In recent years, tens of thousands of title deeds have been transferred to the poor in the country’s metros as urbanisation increased hand over fist. Granted, more could be done, but deeds empower the previously disadvantaged with home ownership, and they bring more South Africans into the economy. They must now be disempowered again?

However, if land reform is so crucial in the rural areas, let’s start with the dissolution of the Ingonyama Trust, which places some three million hectares of tribal land in KwaZulu-Natal in the control of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

#FiefdomIsThiefdom, as we say.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.