PARLIAMENT, September 6 – Black First Land First (BLF), which describes itself as a pan-Africanist and revolutionary social political party, on Wednesday told members of Parliament (MPs) that section 25 of the Constitution should be completely scrapped and replaced with a section declaring all land owned by white people as stolen property.
BLF leader Andile Mngxitama and his delegation were participating in public hearings in Parliament where a constitutional review committee is looking into whether the property clause (section 25) of the South African Constitution needs to be amended to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
“BLF supports the call to amend section 25 of the Constitution so all land in the hands of white people is returned to the hands of black people, that includes amending section 25 of the Constitution so all land in hands of white people is returned to hands of black people. That includes land in Orania, land in Stellenbosch….,” he said.
“We are going to take back this land by force because it belongs to us.”
Mngxitama declared he was a “proud Constitutional delinquent”, inferring that democratic South Africa’s founding document protected white people at the expense of the black majority.
The submission came in a day when the committee heard diametrically opposed views on the ruling African National Congress’ plans to amend the Constitution to facilitate expropriation without compensation to speed up land reform and correct a lingering racial imbalance in ownership.
Consulting firm In Transition Initiative (ITI) laid the lion’s share of blame at the door of the country’s successive post-apartheid governments.
Malcolm Ferguson from ITI told the committee the lack of land continued to relegate black South Africans to “second class citizenship” more than two decades after the end of apartheid.
“It is firmly and widely assigned to governance failure,” he said and went on to urge government to use 4,323 farms that were the subject of successful land claims yet are now fallow.
He said the state should deal with the fact that it has, through lack of capacity, failed to transfer the land to black farmers.
Ferguson added, however: “It is our view that there is enough blame to go around. The majority of farmers could have done more to share their assets in a manner that they are now beginning to do.”
Fellow ITI presenter Mohammed Bhabha said at the same time it must be acknowledged that many white farmers had shown significant goodwill in helping to get black farming operations off the ground.
This included underwriting debt or ceding a controlling stake in their land to workers and has seen R1.2 billion go towards helping black farmers on 50 projects in the Western Cape.
Bhabha and Ferguson argued that it was not necessary to amend the Constitution but that practical solutions must be found to give land and assistance to emerging black farmers.
“The view of ITI is that an amendment is not necessary to achieve these objectives,” Ferguson said.
Bhabha added that the Constitution provided a framework and that crisp legislation and a secondary funding model was necessary to make a success of land reform, which in ITI’s view should be seen as an entirely separate issue to land restitution as it may “clog up” the system.
ITI is headed by former National Party minister Roelf Meyer who helped to negotiate the transition to democracy.
The firm’s presentation stood in sharp contrast to that of the National African Farmers Union who made an emotional call for the nationalisation of all land, a demand also driven by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Nafu president Motsepe Matala broke down as he described the searing poverty of landless South Africans, and said section 25 must be amended to provide clarity on expropriation, adding that the union’s view was based on the Freedom Charter, which in contrast was very clear.
He insisted that land could not be sold because “it is priceless”, but said Nafu’s arguments should not be seen as an attack on white farmers as they were fellow South Africans.
However, he said, the deregulation of the farming sector had to be reviewed as it created a disadvantage for black farmers as they had to “compete with people who have been in the business for years” and had received great support from the apartheid regime.
Afriforum, a federation of agriculture organisations, submitted that tampering with rights enshrined in the Constitution would have a devastating effect on the economy, which has entered a technical recession, and potentially on food security. It said there has been a plethora of policies on land reform “rather than focusing on getting implementation right”. (ANA)