Policy - or a rash bid to steal the EFF's thunder?

05 August 2018 - 00:00 By ONKGOPOTSE JJ TABANE

The elevation of the land question to a central election issue has made the ANC act in a desperate fashion, exposing policy schizophrenia.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the land issue is central to unlocking economic freedom for the majority of South Africans, and for this reason it's actually a terrible record that the ANC has presided over the redistribution of no more than 10% of the land since 1994. This is despite the constitution in its current form allowing for a certain amount of expropriation of land without compensation.
This reality, it may be assumed, is what prompted the president to announce to a group of Afrikaners early this year that there would be no need to change the constitution in order to achieve land redistribution. This appears to have been opportunistic if not utterly untruthful. The ANC seemed desperate to say what the Afrikaners wanted to hear, in its quest to tailor-make its position depending on who is listening.
This immediately undermined the parliamentary process that was already under way, and demonstrated that the electoral appetite of the ANC to remain in power trumped its respect for a consultative process spearheaded by parliament. This is a dangerous precedent - ignoring parliamentary processes and therefore the constitution for narrow political gain.That façade clearly could not be kept up through the land hearings, where the ANC leadership was upstaged by a more aggressive EFF leadership. It was clear from the hearings that the overwhelming majority of participants wanted the constitution to be changed, and were not buying the half-hearted stance of the ANC.
That is why the ANC was desperate for Ramaphosa to uncharacteristically be the one to announce the ANC's new-found courage to change the constitution to effect the expropriation of land without compensation. Let us remember that the ANC has rejected this motion many times over the years and did not even discuss it at its policy conference a mere 12 months ago. The resolution even at Nasrec in December emerged from the floor and was rushed through without any plan of implementation whatsoever.
No ANC leader articulates with confidence how this is going to be balanced with a possible investor backlash. This must be one of the most disorganised policy approaches to befall the ruling party since 1994.
It has exposed the lack of urgency by the ANC to resolve the overall macroeconomics that are summed up by terrible economic indicators. It seems the entire ANC national executive committee needs to urgently be workshopped on how to turn the economy around without losing the initiative to the EFF, which is hardly in power.What stood out for me in a recent interview with former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was the failure to realise that the ANC has merely scratched the surface on land redistribution.
He stated that the people to whom land was given since 1994 failed to work it and instead fought over the working capital given to them and as a result had left what was perfectly arable and productive land to stand fallow. If 72% of the land is still in white hands, he is definitely referring to black people fighting over crumbs.
And this is my problem with the lack of vision and urgency of the ANC on the question of land.
But it is fine for it to rush to the microphone pretending suddenly to want to implement a policy around which it has no plan whatsoever, and in the meantime come across as desperate to steal the EFF's thunder.
The land question is evidence that the ANC is battling to maintain its posture as a leader of society. This has to be fixed by urgent introspection ahead of any further platitudes in election manifestos. Desperate noises ahead of an election is not the way to go. One hopes those with ears to hear will hear.
• Tabane is a radio and TV host. He is also author of Let's Talk Frankly - Letters to Influential South Africans on the State of our Nation...

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