The land cannot remain in white hands

Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi and Tiisetso Makhele say DA has exposed itself by opposing ANC's EWC resolution


True to its political and ideological character, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has come out guns blazing after the ANC, at its 54th National Conference held in Gauteng last year, resolved to amend the Constitution to allow it to expropriate land without compensation. In its rejection of this progressive decision of the ANC, the DA has proven that indeed it is nothing more than a party established to protect minority interests, at the expense of the interest of the majority.

Marxism-Leninist theory teaches us to always look for the class, material and economic interests behind and motivating all declarations and principles, all institutions as well as policies. It further teaches us not to respect but to despise ideas and institutions which serve the capitalist class and white minority privilege at the expense of the working class and the African majority.

The DA, out of ignorance or deliberate obfuscation of our bitter, unfortunate past, have made a grave error of undermining not only the people of South Africa, but the people of Africa as a whole. The DA has been silent on the many light sentences given to some of the worst white perpetrators of violence against black people on the farms. It is clear that the DA is an organization hell-bent on defending the historical injustice of land dispossession in our country. We will now attempt to educate DA on the history which it is trying to ignore, as an attempt to show them how insulting their stance is.

Historical background of land dispossession

It is not a secret that the history of land dispossession in South Africa predates the passing of the Natives Land Act in 1913. The bitter wars between the Basotho, amaZulu, amaXhosa, Khoikhoi, San as well as other ethnic groups against the white settlers occurred because of instances of land and livestock dispossession. Through annexation and enactment of repressive laws, Africans were gradually dispossessed of their land.

The commodification of land—that most basic of resources; the source of terrestrial life, and the foundation of human civilization—was essential for the development of the barbaric system of capitalism. And from the early modern capitalist era until the present, it is the commodification of nature—with land bought (or obtained by other means) and sold, speculated upon, and used to produce human food, animal feed, fiber, or fuel and with crops selected based on climate and soil type but also on what would bring the greatest returns—that is the underlying basis of the dispossession of people from their lands.

Amongst the laws which facilitated land dispossession in South Africa was the Glen Grey Act of 1894, which was authored by Cecil John Roads. The Act, which the author also called the “Bill of Africa”, was intended to deal with three issues; land, labour and franchise (, and was intended to ensure that Africans were landless. According to Rhodes, African citizens were children and that the (white) government protected their land. According to this Act, Africans had no right to a vote on their own land, thus the disenfranchisement of Africans until 1994.

The Native Land Commission, led by Supreme Court Judge William Beaumont, of 1913, looked at the two questions, as part of its work;

1. “What areas within the Union of South Africa should lie set apart as areas with which Natives shall not be permitted to acquire or hire land or interests in land?”

2. “What areas within the Union of South Africa should be set apart as areas within which persons other than Natives shall not be permitted to acquire or hire land or interests in land?”

In its work, and through its recommendations, the Commission became the pinnacle of the institutionalization of land thieving and dispossession in South Africa. The Commission, which was a precursor to the enactment of the Natives Land Act of 1913, recommended that Blacks be accommodated in lands characterized by poor soil as well as steep and sour pasturage. “Only the Kaffir, with his limited requirements, could be expected to exist upon such terms”, the report stated. In doing its work, the Commission never consulted with the “natives, in case they become aggressive and annoying to their European neighbours”.

DA’s deliberate rewriting of history to maintain historical reality

It is not that we expected anything better from the DA, which exists solely to defend white privilege and colonial material conditions. But we will not rest when the DA deliberately rewrites history, and thereby misleading our people, on the nature and origins of the current state of landlessness of the majority.

The DA’s Land Reform Policy states that; “The success of land reform should therefore be determined in terms of the livelihoods created or supported and economic value created, rather than the hectares of land transferred”. This policy is both problematic and an insult to the African people who have been disposed of their land since 1652.

It is also ahistorical, in that it does not take into consideration the racial land dispossession processes which have led to the current skewed land ownership patterns. We reject this policy proposal of the DA and state unequivocally that the success of land reform shall be determined by the extent to the hectares of land transferred to the people of South Africa as a whole, the majority of whom are African and female.

The ANC’s resolution on land and prospects of redress

The land question in our revolution is a very sensitive issue that needs to be approached with sober attitudes. There is a powerful and political, emotional aspiration for the return of the land. It is a crucial part of our national question. The indigenous people of South Africa have fought bitter wars of resistance lasting hundreds of years because they were being deprived of the land.

Despite more than two decades of the democratic breakthrough the land is still controlled and used as a monopoly by the white minority. The ANC slogan “Mayibuye-i-Africa” was precisely this demand for the return of the African land to its indigenous inhabitants. The white minority has no right to be land barons while we work for them as serfs. This is why the Freedom Charter says that “the land shall be shared among those who work it” 

Land in Africa is fundamental, even in countries that are relatively industrialised and urbanised. It resonates powerfully because of widespread and chronic poverty and the continuing significance of both rural and urban land in the livelihood strategies of migrant workers, small-scale farmers and petty entrepreneurs in the informal sector.

In South Africa, our bitter history is of dispossession of land by a state serving the interests of white settlers. It includes recent experience of forced removals. The “land question” strikes a chord for many people and serves as a potent symbol of persistent poverty and structural inequality. These are legacies bequeathed to the post-apartheid era but only partially addressed since 1994. We need to do more to rescue land restitution from a neo-liberal paradigm of the failed policy of willing buyer willing seller.

The DA is hopelessly out of touch with the realities facing the overwhelming majority of our people. Attempts by the DA to protect the willing buyer, willing seller principle as a basis for land reform is further indication of the extent to which this party remains the best defender of the economic interests of some of the most backward and racist sectors of this nation.

Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi is an SACP Free State PEC Member

Tiisetso “Afrika” Makhele is spokesperson to Free State Premier, Hon. Dr Ace Magashule

The authors are members of the ANC in Free State and write in their personal capacities