Calling the ANC's dangerous bluff on land reform

03 June 2018 - 00:00 By ONKGOPOTSE JJ TABANE
How Can U buy land Never Been Bought, placard held by an ANCYL supporter.
How Can U buy land Never Been Bought, placard held by an ANCYL supporter.
Image: Reuben Goldberg

The EFF can't tell you with a straight face how exactly the expropriation of land without compensation would work. It is time someone pointed out to it that, with 8% of the vote, it will not be able to implement it without the ANC's say-so.

Everyone is in such euphoria over the long-overdue airing of the land question that we have suspended our reasoning about how disastrous this policy could be.

Let's be frank: the ANC is stringing along the EFF and those who believe it on the land question, lulling them into thinking that it is on the same page. The ANC cannot afford to hand over the land question on a platter to the EFF as an election tool. It has to take some credit for an impending land revolution — except that such a revolution is not near!

The ANC is bluffing.

This ought to be obvious, but we are a gullible people. More than 140,000 submissions on the land issue have been received by parliament and I have no doubt that most of them are underlining how crazy the resolution on land is.

I don't imagine hordes of landless people rushing to submit anything to parliament — after all, the ANC and the EFF have assured them that they will be land-rich in no time. I believe — and I would be happy to be proved wrong — that the EFF and ANC are playing mind games with what is potentially a time bomb. Poverty in South Africa is so bad that people can be excused for grabbing at any straw.

The parliamentary process will not result in a constitutional change that will give the state any more power to expropriate land than was agreed to by Ramaphosa's ANC at Codesa.

The DA may not even need to prepare court papers, if the outcome of the ANC's land summit is anything to go by.

In fact, one battles to see the difference between the DA's position and that of the ruling party. The ANC has already made an about-turn on the land resolution envisaged by the EFF and, sadly, this is what the EFF will use to campaign. Again, I am happy to be proved wrong.

The ANC has to be more honest with the public and start implementing what the constitution allows it to do by using land to change the lot of our people.

The emphasis on food security was a clear signal that land on which productive farming is taking place will not be touched. The reality is those who are without land now are not going to become overnight farming sensations. The government must identify small-scale farmers and give them more land and support to diversify their farming activity. Simple things like supporting co-operatives and helping them access markets can double the number of agricultural jobs.

The ANC must make a solid presentation to parliament showing the economic flaws of expropriating land outside the ambit of section 25 of the constitution. The timing of this discussion must take into account the elections.

Should there be a deadlock in parliament, the ANC must join forces with like-minded parties to fight for a proper outcome in court — one that will not destroy whatever is left of our economic growth trajectory. No court would find on the side of the EFF, which will be left to fight on the streets.

Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema digs into the land debate, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘thuma mina’ campaign and the abuse of women, at the party’s Africa day event in Pretoria on Friday 25 2018.

The EFF has already polarised the DA on the land question, pushing it into the hands of the ANC ahead of coalition talks after the 2019 elections. In the end it will come down to numbers and it is clear that the EFF has become complacent, almost counting its chickens before they are hatched.

The ANC has all but admitted that it failed to implement land reform over the years as section 25 allows. The party needs to regain leadership and outmanoeuvre the reckless approach of the EFF. Its position will find resonance with the DA.

Between these parties the economy can be saved from the collapse that would certainly follow the implementation of the wholesale "official land grab" that would be the result of wanton expropriation of land without compensation.

• Tabane is the host of Frankly Speaking on SABC3 and Power Perspective on Power 98.7