South Africa’s ever-fluid political climate has moved on swiftly from Cyril Ramaphosa’s honeymoon to the thorny issue of land.
Land redistribution has been South Africa’s bogeyman since the advent of democracy. To the majority of South Africans, landlessness has always been the painful reminder that democracy did not bring about material changes to the socioeconomic landscape.
To those who have always owned property and land, the uncertainty of what Section 25 of the constitution would bring upon implementation meant constant fear of the unknown.
The phrase “land expropriation without compensation” has always been seen by many landowners in this country as the reason Zimbabwe collapsed. Whenever the land question was raised in the past, the Zimbabwean land grabs were not far off people’s tongues and memories.
But in an attempt to reclaim their radicalism, the Economic Freedom Fighters have forced the topic to the forefront of the national conversation, which is something we should all be grateful for.
The ruling party has failed in many respects to govern South Africa fruitfully since taking power in 1994. One of their many failures has been on turning Section 25 of the constitution into a real, actionable programme that would once and for all create certainty for all.
The constitution says: “The public interest includes the nation’s commitment to land reform, and to reforms to bring about equitable access to all… The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures within its available resources to foster conditions [that] enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.”
Transformation of a society built on a racist past can never be easy and painless. Sacrifices will have to be made, but that should never translate into the chaos and looting that accompanied the Zimbabwean land grabs.
It is difficult to divorce the question of land reform in SA without bringing race into it. This is because all the legislation that brought us where we are with regards to land were race-based: The Native Land Act of 1913 and the Group Areas Act are cases in point.
If we deny them, then political opportunists like Julius Malema will drag the whole country to the brink of “slitting the throats of whiteness”.
The resolution of the land question is necessary because it holds the key to true social cohesion.
In the excitement of the aftermath of the 2016 local government elections, the DA got into bed with the EFF to keep the ANC out of power. It chose to ignore the EFF’s stance on land.
Now, when Malema uses the land debate to say they’re removing Athol Trollip as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay and not Herman Mashaba or Solly Msimanga, because they’re black, it goes to the heart of why we needy a speedy and permanent resolution to land.
Refusal to do so gives people like Malema ammunition to continue using divisive race politics, which destroys social cohesion.
The DA, if serious about maintaining a semblance of self-respect in the eye of the voter, should call out Malema on his racist call for the removal of Trollip.