EWC fundamentally undermines property ownership – Thandeka Mbabama

DA MP says this is not answer to brutal dispossession of black people from their land

South Africa cannot afford a disruptive Land Reform programme

27 February 2018

Madame Speaker,

In “Cry the Beloved Country”, Alan Paton reveals the many dimensions of what land means to us as a South Africans. He warns us that the ground is holy and that we must ‘keep it, guard it, care for it – for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed ’.

That last quote ‘destroy it and man is destroyed’ illustrates the inextricable link between man and the land. A man’s land, no matter the size, is his refuge, where he finds shelter, sustenance and a sense of well-being. Former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, said “Land is very spiritual. It is in land that we bury our people, connect and speak to our ancestors. It is land on which churches, temples and mosques are built, and it is from land that we eat and survive”. Seize that land and you take away not only man’s livelihood, you take away his identity too. Black people were brutally dispossessed and forcibly removed from their land. Decades later, the wounds still run deep. There is an indisputable need to right that wrong, to make amends.

My fellow countrymen, sizwe sakuthi, expropriation without compensation cannot be part of the solution. Only a few months ago, Members on the right side of this House fully agreed with this position when they opposed the previous EFF motion to expropriate without compensation.

Expropriation without compensation fundamentally undermines property ownership in South Africa. The property clause in Section 25 of the Constitution states that property is not limited to land. This poses serious risks to investment in agriculture and by extension South Africa if expropriation without compensation is implemented.

Cas Coovadia MD of the Banking Association of South Africa writes that expropriation without compensation erodes property rights and once this happens land can no longer serve as collateral. Most productive agricultural land is bonded to financial institutions under a total debt of approximately R160 billion. What will happen to that debt should the encumbered farms be expropriated without compensation?

Kristen and Sihlalo, two agricultural economists, raise a valid query. They argue that in a typical productive farming operation, considering both movable and immovable assets, the land is roughly 10 percent of the value of the operation. Under expropriation without compensation would the infrastructure and assets such as farm machinery which form 90 percent of the value also be seized?

The problem is not Section 25 of the Constitution. Expropriation without compensation is a way to divert attention away from the failures of the ANC government. As former President Kgalema Motlanthe’s high-level report points out “the need to pay compensation has not been the most serious constraint on land reform in South Africa – other constraints, including 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”.

It is shocking that at the current rate it will take 35 years to finalise restitution claims lodged before 1998. How is this justice for poor black people in this country? The process to lawfully implement expropriation without compensation will only prolong the wait for the landless in this country. The government needs to address the weakness in implementing the provisions in the Constitution instead of bowing to populist rhetoric.

The fact is this: expropriation without compensation is a blatant lie. It is a lie being peddled by a desperate ANC that fears being outflanked by the EFF. We in the Democratic Alliance believe that redressing the wrongs of the past is not a game and we can never use the scars of the past to score cheap political points. Land reform is a social justice issue and the government’s newly changed position will not benefit the poor but will instead benefit the elite and those with connections to the ANC government.

Fellow South Africans, the DA believes it is possible to achieve the aims of land reform and to do so in a way that truly empowers black people and strengthens the economy. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is through partnerships with community organisations, an initiative that has enabled the DA to accelerate the pace of land reform here in the Western Cape. This approach has led to led to the success of 62% of all land reform farms in the Western Cape. This is in stark contrast to the 90% failure rate of land reform programmes in the rest of the country.

Our approach means we have more black farmers participating in the formal economy with the state playing a role in providing the support they need. Another method of ensuring that land reform serves as a tool of economic freedom is to give title deeds to farmers. Most people do not know that is it national government policy to withhold title deeds from black farmers, this is a barrier to land reform. Here in the Western Cape, the DA has delivered 82 830 title deeds since 2009. This not only provides black farmers with the dignity of owning their own property but it also provides access to funds through financial institutions. Surely this is true economic freedom and none of this would be achieved through expropriating without compensation.

Bantu bakuti umbutho we DA uyavumelana ne land reform no kubuyiselwa komhlaba ebantwini. Kunyanzelekile ukuba abantu abamnyama abangathathi ntweni babandakanyeke kwezomhlaba ukuze bakwazi ukuxhamla kwezo qoqosho. Kodwa asivumelani nokuxuthwa komhlaba ngaphandle kwe mbhuyekezo.

Issued by Thandeka MbabamaDA Shadow Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, 27 February 2018


South Africa doesn’t have a constitution problem but an ANC problem

Today, the National Assembly adopted a motion moved by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to establish an ad-hoc committee to review and amend section 25 of the constitution to make it possible for the state to appropriate land without compensation. The DA voted against this motion and it is important that we provide reasons for this and to clarify our position on land reform.

We want to make it unequivocally clear that the DA is completely committed to redressing the history of violent land dispossession in South Africa and we recognise the unjust legacy left by this dispossession. We view land reform as a social justice imperative which all South African must rally around. This should never be used as a tool to score cheap political points or to use the scars of the past to further divide our nation.

What we need is a policy that will ensure that black beneficiaries of land reform are empowered and supported through adequate funding of such programmes, a ruthless rooting out of corruption, and the political will to implement properly.

The current approach by the ANC government sees the state as ‘benevolent’ custodians of all land, with individual black farmers denied the opportunity to really own land. This, we argue, is not real land reform. This is permanent tenancy and dependency. We prefer a model which sees emerging black farmers for the dynamic businesspersons and entrepreneurs that they are, who should be entrusted with full title and ownership of the land. Only then will we have a vibrant, thriving, diverse agricultural sector that truly redresses the past.

Where the DA governs, we have pioneered this model, with truly encouraging results. We have also pioneered a meaningful commitment to make true homeowners of government housing recipients in urban contexts. We have already distributed more than 75 000 title deeds in the metros where we govern. This method not only provides black farmers with the dignity of owning their own property but it also provides access to funds through financial institutions. Surely this is true economic freedom and none of this would be achieved through expropriating without compensation. We believe this is something we can all be proud of.

We do not agree, however, that the Constitution is an impediment to land reform. Making this argument lets the ANC off the hook on the real impediments - corruption, bad policy and chronic underfunding. We should be working together to force the ANC to account for its patronising view of black farmers, and its two-decade long failure to take land reform seriously. By arguing for expropriation without compensation, the ANC has been gifted the perfect scapegoat to explain away its own failure.

Expropriation without compensation would severely undermine the national economy, only hurting poor black people even further. We therefore cannot support such an approach.

Statement issued by Thandeka Mbabama MP, DA Shadow Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, 27 February 2017