South Africa at cross roads?

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Blessings T.D Chimunyapule.

 

The debate on land reform, reached its climax in February when the Parliament agreed to the EFF’s motion to expropriate land without compensation. Section 25 of the Constitution is being tempered with to the detriment of the very poor it seeks to benefit. The news have also sparked a mixed reaction, further highlighting the massive racial gap in South Africa.

The British and Dutch Settlers dispossessed the indigenous population from their land, without compensation. This historical crime has continued through ages from 1650. And there seemed to be not any political will to address this divisive issue, since independence. To this day most of the country’s best land is still occupied by the minority white settler descends, while African majority is just confined to a minuscule fraction of their territory.

At the end of Apartheid majority of poverty-stricken Africans remained crowded into the former places. That South Africa today remains with one of the most unequal distribution of income in the world is a fact. According to some sources, as things stand income and quality of life are strongly correlated with race , location and gender. This needs redressing.

During negotiations towards independence; there was so much political compromise. This left much of the economic and social structure intact including land ownership.

This continued unaddressed even when South Africa Constitution offeres a basis and a clear mandate on the state to redress the inequalities of the past. There is even a clause on property guaranteeing the rights of existing owners. It also offers a platform for a potentially far-reaching land reform programme, which the governing party for years have  failed to capitalise on.
For ANC’s leaders to act as a lapdog to EFF’s political agenda with the future of South African, is quite disturbing. Nothing justifies action which is designed to violate the sanctity of property rights. This will lead to a backlash from International Partners in the most radical way, which will end up destabilising this fragile democracy.

Taking land without compensation, bring to question the willingness of the South African government to uphold the rule of law. Amending the law to sanitise theft is and remains illegal. South African white farmers and every farmer for that matter is protected by the constitution. Violation of the Constitution which protect propertt right will lead to an investor scare. South Africa is hurtling towards self destruction, soon it will be a pariah like Zimbabwe has been for the past years with devastating consequences.

Zimbabwean government in 2001 embarked on a land reform, which saw the destruction of the economy. Zimbabweans today are all over the world as if their country was at war, just because their leaders decided to take land.  Land reform is a noble idea but if you allow politics to take centre stage instead of economics, the results will be footsores on the economy. South Africa is right now battling with the burden of Zimbabweans who reside within its boarders after the aftershocks of Zimbabwe’s land reform.

We are not blind to the fact that there is a need for addressing historical imbalances, which left many blacks disenfranchised of their land. The government must instead take land but compensate the development which were made by the owner of the farm. This non compensation policy will only promote theft and benefit only the politicians and the connected while the masses bear the brunt of a political mishap. Measures to engage all stakeholder must be put in place to address this issue. Populist ideas, whose disastrous outcome is obsfucated in virulent rhetoric, which are not backed up by any economic sense usually lead to economic meltdown.

Already the povert gap is far wider, showing that most poor households have not benefited from economic growth and the new era. Taking land without compensation will lead to capital flight, this will hit the Rand very hard leading to inflation of higher proportion, which will be harder to harness even with a cocktail of economic measures. ANC must be very careful, in its effort to recapture its lost popularity, it should not be pushed into a policy path, that will destroy the economic gains. Instead the best way to address poverty must be used without destroying the production sector.

A lot of issues must be addressed such as figuring out how to equip the targeted beneficiary and how to support them post settlement. Instead emotions are running high there is no sober thinking around the issue. It has at best became the race issue, instead of being a land issue.

We maintain that, the principle of land expropriation without compensation, stems from deliberate ignorance of the political fallout which will follow. Already Britain has discuss this issue in their parliament and are ready to review their ties with South Africa. The question is:  if Nelson Mandela was here, what will he have done?  In addressing the issue of poverty and land reform, this nation needs all hands on the deck.

The stormy present has reignited the racistic echoes from the past polarising the whole political discourse. Sober leadership from President Rhamaphosa is require, otherwise we will end up helping the historical victims by creating more victims. A concerted holistic approach grounded in constitutionalism as engraved in the New South African Constitution will go a long way in easing the tension both internal and external, which is threatening to destroy the gains made so far.
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