ANC supports land expropriation ammendment

Last night President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ANC would support an amendment to the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation.

According to ENCA the ANC has assured South Africa that it will not do this in such a way as to threaten food security or economic growth.

According to Fin24, the Rand didn’t respond well to the news.

My Take

Part of the problem with the constitutional amendment being discussed is so far as I can see it doesn’t really do anything. Section 25 of the constitution includes this little bit – which is a direct quote from it:

25 Property
(8) No provision of this section may impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land, water and related reform, in order to redress the results of past racial discrimination, provided that any departure from the provisions of this section is in accordance with the provisions of section 36(1).

So in other words, 90% of the argument for land redistribution so far doesn’t require any constitutional amendments to actually do it. Every argument about the Apartheid state all the way back to Jan van Riebeeck is kind of irrelevant – the relevant bit of the constitution already allows for that.

The reason it hasn’t happened isn’t the constitution – so what does the current change mean?

If it is the EFF approach – then all land reverts to the state. This is very, very bad for everyone. This is the Venezuelan model – and what happened in Venezuela was that this meant that farmers’ wages were tied to their major export – oil.

When the oil price dropped due to Opec wanting to crush the shale gas industry, the farmers didn’t get paid so they didn’t harvest the crops so the cities starved.

Malema has already suggested nationalising the mines in order to fund state interests such as the universities – and our mines are quite old, so when they run out or suddenly the commodities market bottoms out, what happens to the universities?

The ANC’s stance meanwhile is more opaque. They keep saying they don’t want to hurt food security or economic growth.

Now the thing here is – the vision of farming people are sold is the productive farms, its the farms which support a wealthy lifestyle, and that is what people sort of expect from expropriation. You’ll get your own farm and it is going to make you money right?

But listening to what the ANC is saying here – that’s not the land that is going to be expropriated, the land that’s going to be expropriated is the land that isn’t doing that because taking poorer land is lower risk when it comes to economic growth or food security.

It is like hearing you’re going to get a vehicle, and the pictures of vehicles you’re shown are jets and cars, and what you get is a broken down bicycle.

I agree with expropriation without compensation if it is going to be abandoned lots within the city. If we don’t even know who owns the land, how are we supposed to compensate them for it?

I disagree with it, where it sounds like we’re being offered one thing but we look closer and it is something completely different. I don’t like deceptive deals.

One of the things that struck me with the Saica presentation on land reform was the economist who gave his bit on it, that slide included success stories and not so successful stories. The success stories weren’t about redressing the past – they were about changing how the land worked going into the future. They were tied up in concerns like slums, or wanting to build up smallholdings.

The failures were trying to address historic injustice. That is not to say that you can’t address past injustice, but if you deal with present injustice that can sort things out better. It doesn’t matter who lived where 100 years ago, our concern is where people want to live now – we don’t have to restrict ourselves to the past in order to address injustice.

I suspect an amendment which expands expropriation without compensation beyond the racial sphere could even be a good thing, but we need to know more about what it is about. As it stands we’re all sort of going into this with a whole bunch of assumptions, with cynics like me assuming the worst, but not a great deal of concrete knowledge to base any of this on.

  • Picture of Cyril Ramaphosa courtesy of GCIS via Flickr.

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