Four months ago Agri SA issued a statement expressing its "appreciation" that senior officials of the National Congress (ANC) had made "specific policy commitments" on agricultural property. Among other things, productive agricultural land would be protected and property rights would remain a key priority in agrarian development. The farming organisation "welcomed" these "important" commitments after a meeting with the deputy president of the ANC, David Mabuza.
One month ago Agri SA appeared to have changed its tune. No sooner had a parliamentary committee agreed to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation than Agri SA was promising to draw the line against this, inter alia by mobilising internationally. Two weeks ago Agri SA committed itself to pursuing all credible avenues to protect property rights, including going to court to challenge the decision by Parliament to make the necessary amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution. Clearly, the organisation no longer believes the promises made to it four months ago.
This is a healthy development – not because the promises have proved to be empty, but because Agri SA appears to have learnt that appeasement is not working. A growing number of organisations is now recognising this in agriculture and even in the mining industry. Organisations that include the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) have been vindicated in their determination right from the start to fight the land confiscation policy adopted by the ANC at its 54th national congress in December last year – and subsequently endorsed with enthusiasm by Cyril Ramaphosa.
ANC insiders have indeed complained to some of my colleagues at the IRR that we have made things difficult for President Ramaphosa in that he has been repeatedly challenged about expropriation when he goes on trips abroad to drum up investment.
The ANC is ideologically committed to confiscating land from whites. The only thing that might prevent it from doing so is a long battle waged in whatever forums are available, among them the media, the courts, investors, foreign governments, and international organisations.
Waging such a battle means adopting the ANC's own approach. Its ability to implement its revolutionary programme depends on the prevailing "balance of forces", as it has pointed out in its "strategy and tactics" documents. These have in the past stated that tensions over property – "at the core of all social systems"' – need to be managed via "dexterity in tact and firmness in principle".