In The News Opinion South Africa

Land – a tale of summits, bloodshed threats, political games and a denied Khoisan identity!

Clyde Ramalaine 

JOHANNESBURG- In a month and week that South Africa commemorated Freedom Day, several summits on the land question were staged. These gatherings organized by civil society formations were aimed to bring diverse groups of people together from different sides of the many divides on the touchy and very emotive subject of land.

South Africa is in conversation on land since recent developments birthed from the ANC’s 54th Conference which adopted a resolution to expropriate land without compensation. This moment in time, 24 years later marked for some a significant shift on the subject of land ownership.

The next event on this score was the early March, Economic Freedom Fighters tabled motion which was with a slight amendment supported by the ANC. The motion stood with a victory of 241-83, confirming a substantial number of ANC parliamentarians either absent on the day or not voting in favour of the motion. Subsequent to this National Assembly and National Council of Provinces mandated the Constitutional Review Committee to review section 25 of the Constitution and others sections where necessary, to make it possible for the state to, 1. Expropriate land in the public interest without compensation and. 2. Propose the necessary constitutional amendments where applicable with regards to the kind of future land tenure regime needed. This public participation has a closing date of May 31, 2018.

The unfolding land summits regardless organized by who must not be seen in isolation of the 2005 Land Summit that Government hosted, meaning the subject of a land question is not new.  Recently the Land Audit Report was made public and that has again confirmed that over 72% of South Africa in land remains owned by those who share a denotation of white for their identity. Clearly, this situation is untenable and cannot continue. So, talking land can never be considered a major achievement, there have been talks and summits before.

Land rightly remains an emotive subject for those who were dispossessed with a history of attempts since 1483. Land is an emotive subject for those who own it today, for they claim they have title deeds on it and therefore constitutionally are the rightful owners of the land in question.  Land regardless how defined holds tremendous value for the overall socio-economic development of both people and country. Land is an emotive subject simply because land is simply not made anymore, and those who own it owns more than land, they own this economy.

How did we get to a space where we must have summits, debates on land as a means to justify the case for land restoration to its rightful owners?  How is it that we almost a quarter of a century later is stuck to have to be satisfied with discussions on land as major achievements towards an end of attaining land for its rightful owners. This when those who own the land has quadrupled their net worth while we chatting about the efficacy of land expropriation?  This question may have many answers, yet none is more glaring than the reality of a negotiated settlement anchored in CODESA where the National Party and white interest scored their major victories. It is time those who keep defending their legacies of negotiations admit, CODESA failed to return the land to the people. In that sense, it must go down as a bad deal.

The discussions on expropriating land without compensation are interpreted by among others COPE’s leader, Mosiua Lekota, as precarious since for him and those who share his mind, amending the constitution to accommodate this expropriation intent spells, only one thing –  bloodshed. The challenge with this parading fear-mongering claims is that it is firstly deceiving because we all know the constitution of South Africa was amended many times before. The amendment to the constitution cannot naturally translate to bloodshed. The other part of this fear mongering is rooted in the growing threats from some hard-line white interest defenders. Lekota, therefore, is merely re-echoing the threats of those whom mostly associate with. As I pen this note, Afri-Forum’s Kallie Kriel is in the USA to garner support against the intent of land expropriation without compensation. Back home the masses remain confused because the sincerity of politicians with vested interest in both sides of the land divide debate is tangible.

Is the land anytime soon returning to its rightful owners? Are the recent jolts of land talks anything to exact the promise of a soon returning land? Is the noise from next door and along the corridors telling us land in any sense will be back expeditiously? I wish I could say yes, the facts are, there are at least six hurdles to cross.

The first of which is the reality of parliamentary processes to realize a bill takes time. Whatever process parliament has initiated is one cognizant of the fact that the road to legislation in parliament is tedious, tardy and cumbersome. We all know that an ordinary bill takes at least 15months to reach finalization. So, if we thought the noise will bring soon changes, we must stop deceiving ourselves. It will be for the earliest 2020 if you talk about legislation.

Secondly, besides the tortoise pace of standard and known processes in parliament, there is another challenge, the leader of society the ANC, despite adopting as a policy still have internal disagreement till this very hour on the accepted resolution which ultimately became a motion in parliament. Not everyone in the ANC agrees with the intent of land expropriation as we have seen from Derek Hanekom’s comments both in the June 2017 policy conference. Hanekom is not alone, there are others of leadership who for vested interest do not support this adopted resolution.

The third challenge centres on the critical aspect of true leadership to deliver the outcomes of expropriated land thus changing the landscape in favour of land return unless this is all a distraction. We have heard President Ramaphosa say land will be expropriated and returned to its rightful owners. He has articulated the 54th Conference’s resolutions, yet it takes more than saying we will expropriate land. The president must give leadership beyond speeches to give strategic direction as to how this will be attained and over what period. We cannot have a situation where it appears the right noises are made but the same process is stymied and stifled by a lacklustre leadership. We know babies often are kept busy with frivolous toys when adults want to discuss or engage serious things. In a sense, these debates, summits, and chats on land could be a proverbial toy some are kept busy with, while those invested in the land have already worked out a means to delay the delivery. The president and the ANC must tell what the endgame is in clear timelines.

The fourth challenge is land no dissimilar to so many things in SA, constitutes a race issue. When you, therefore, talk of land you talk of the race issue because the land owned in SA is owned by those apartheid extended definition of white for their human agency when those who do not own the land were defined as the opposite of that white description.

In the fifth instance the land question is also a question of a Khoisan identity, hitherto South Africa’s constitution and the population register denies the existence of a Khoisan identity in this epoch. The Khoisan who claims a right of indigenous society argues for a right to be recognized in first nation status designation. Not having attained the right to self- identification in democracy yet, the road to being recognized in aboriginal setting appears even more distant. The ANC hitherto refuses to afford people the right to identify as Khoisan. Despite timeous written submissions some of us delivered to the June 2017 National Policy Conference, it continues to hold on to the apartheid classifications for identity and is yet to afford South Africans the right to self-identify. You cannot resolve the land question until you recognize the right to self-identifying of the Khoisan people not in inadvertently romantic historical and poetic expressions, that really insults the identity. Can the ANC accept there are those of us today who identify as Khoisan and we have a claim on land from that identity?

Another reason why land may not soon or even never return to the people vacillates on the fact that South Africa is on a mission of attracting foreign investment in areas and spaces that never will endorse investment where land can be expropriated. There appears a natural conflict of interest if SA’s president pronounces land expropriation without compensation in the same breath asking for foreign investment from markets that do not share the interest of advancing the cause of the victims of colonialism and apartheid.

As with all things in our political and living spaces, there are twists and opportunism. Because the ANC refuses to own the debate on the Khoisan identity, the apartheid benefactors will reinvent themselves as always to be claiming their association and sincerity in a Khoisan cause. We now hear of an organization called USAF that claims, negotiations for land took place and that payments for land to the Khoisan were made. They claim this is captured in an apparent ‘Crudup agreement’ signed on April 19, 1672.

USAF seeks to capitalize on the reluctance of the ANC to afford the Khoisan an identity and attempts to speak on behalf of Khoisan and White settlers as a cohabitating group of mutual interest on land. It’s the same old tactics of white survival, they reinvented themselves from Boers to be Afrikaners as a means to lay claim on land. The Afrikaner identity as history leads was in origin never white, but they will tell you today it’s their identity. USAF see land-grabs taking place once the constitution is amended. Interesting how terms like land-grabs are invented by those who first robbed and grabbed land. USAF now claims they will cede the entire Western Cape end of June, what hogwash.

You ask me again, is land returning anytime soon to its rightful owners, now I can say to you NO and if you want to accuse me of being pessimistic it’s your right. There can be no land return until we have dealt with the thorny subject of identity beyond the convenient appropriated label of black for a means to define people, and until we honestly have dealt with the issues I herewith have attempted to raise.

Please enjoy all the summits, gatherings and talks on land just don’t forget it may just be an orchestrated means to keep the masses busy as has happened since 1994.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation

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