The people are not hungry for land

People queue with their ID documents to be registered by members of the EFF for a piece of land in Brakpan. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

People queue with their ID documents to be registered by members of the EFF for a piece of land in Brakpan. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

Myths about land reform are dominating government’s agenda in a way that can only lead to destruction.

Are people crying out for land or is land hunger a myth? Is land reform what people want? No.

In a 2016 survey, the Institute of Race Relations asked South Africans about the country’s most serious unresolved problems. Almost 40% cited unemployment; 33% said lack of service delivery. Land distribution was named by less than 1%.

More than 92% of successful land claimants choose money rather than land. Idyllic rural life is fantasy. In reality people are flocking to towns and cities. More than 64% of us live in cities, and urbanisation will continue apace.

Yet land is again in the spotlight after the opening yesterday of a series of public hearings as the constitutional review committee grapples with expropriation of land without compensation.

How did we get there? The minority EFF has been shouting. And the call was taken up by the Jacob Zuma faction of the ANC, as part of the Bell Pottinger-inspired narrative to draw attention away from their grand-scale corruption.

Despite losing the party leadership in December, Zuma acolytes persuaded the ANC conference to adopt an EFF-style motion calling for a review of Section 25 of the constitution to speed up expropriation.

That review is now under way, at the same time as campaigning for the 2019 elections. The land hunger myth will be hyped up. It is time for greater clarity on the different parties’ land policies. All the main parties accept that land reform is necessary to help overcome past injustices, and that land reform since 1994 has failed.

Not once in 24 years has the ANC government budgeted enough for land reform. Even the inadequate funds allocated have been abused. But there are also ideological differences which go beyond the ANC trademarks of corruption and incompetence.

Only the DA stands unequivocally for the rapid extension of private property ownership. It wants South Africans to own property, and be able to use property to create wealth.

The EFF wants the state to own all property, including land, homes, businesses and intellectual property. Be clear, EFF/ANC style policies will impoverish you and your family.

The divided ANC remains confused. Although President Cyril Ramaphosa repeats clichés about expropriation, he does so without conviction. It matters not that, according to at least two judges, the constitution already allows for reduced or zero compensation, where appropriate. Nor do the proponents care whether legalised expropriation without compensation is good policy.

Obviously it not good economic or financial policy. Property is used as security for loans. If property can be expropriated without compensation, it loses its value. Who will pay millions for a property that can be taken away on a politician’s whim?

Our banking system is at risk. The idea is even more foolhardy than the unaffordable National Health Insurance scheme, or Mining Charter, or the next SAA bailout, or loss-making Eskom, and so on.

The ANC and EFF are pushing an SA-destruct button. They must stopped. At the polls.

Martin Williams, DA councillor in Johannesburg.

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