Attempts to introduce land expropriation without compensations is “a lazy attempt to scapegoat the Constitution instead of owning up to the real causes for the failure to reform land – bad policy, corruption, and chronic underfunding”, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.
Speaking at the DA’s Mpumalanga provincial congress, he said the DA fully supported the constitutional injunction to restitute land and reform the still-skewed patterns of land ownership.
The DA fully supported land restitution and the aim of building a diverse, prosperous, agricultural sector. The party also had the proudest track record of meaningful land reform of any government in South Africa.
“However, we do not and will not ever support any seizure of private property. All economic growth and advancement requires the guarantee of property rights. If people do not feel secure that what they own will not be arbitrarily and coercively seized from them there will be no incentive to invest, to innovate, and to build productive businesses,” he said.
As agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo put it, “South Africa is the most food-secure country on the African continent mainly because of investment. Investment comes if there are strong property rights. Without investment, how will we get the agricultural sector to be productive?”
The Constitution, as it currently stood, did not in any way limit or even slow down the state from land restitution and reform programmes. In fact, the Constitution specifically called for such programmes, Maimane said.
“So why are we even having this debate? The truth is, this is a lazy attempt to scapegoat the Constitution instead of owning up to the real causes for the failure to reform land – bad policy, corruption, and chronic underfunding.”
Current African National Congress policy for land reform, shared by the Economic Freedom Fighters, was that the state should be the owner of all land.
“This means that no black people are actually able to own land as beneficiaries of land reform. This state-owned land is then to be parcelled out with short – and medium-term leases. This is a patronising, insulting policy that shows that the ANC and the EFF do not trust black farmers enough to actually give them full ownership. It is their intention to turn black farmers into permanent tenants of the state. Can you imagine the corruption that comes with that!” Maimane said.
The ANC’s lack of commitment to real reform was shown in their meagre budget allocations to these programmes over the years.
Last year, only 0.14 percent of the national budget was allocated to land reform, the lowest figure ever. This budget had been in decline every year for the past 10 years.
“The ANC has been deliberately slowing down land reform. And now they blame the Constitution. So when expropriation without compensation is proposed, what the EFF are actually doing is allowing the ANC a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It gives them the perfect cover to avoid having to explain their rank failure over two decades to take land reform seriously.
“Land expropriation without compensation is therefore bad principle, bad policy, and bad politics. The DA has a totally different vision for land reform. We want black emerging farmers to have full ownership title of their land, and we know that given the chance they will flourish as farmers. These citizens should be respected as individuals with drive, agency, and ambition in their own right, not as permanent dependents of the state,” Maimane said.
“We have championed the model of the share equity scheme, which allows farmworkers and beneficiaries to become equal partners in the farms where they live and work. Where we govern, more than 60 percent of land reform projects actually work, compared with a 90% failure rate nationally (according to the national minister of land reform).
“All of history shows that the DA is right on this question. The EFF and the ANC can have an argument with history, but they will lose. They will lose because this mad idea has never worked in any context anywhere in the world. Everywhere it has been tried it has caused only chaos and suffering for everyone.
“But this proposal is not just about land. It is also meant to divide our country and foster hate in the most racist and evil way. Racial divisiveness and economic chaos may suit a cheap political objectify, but it does nothing to build our country. The vast majority of South Africans want our country to work. They want our country to succeed. They know that we are better together,” Maimane said.