Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama suggested during a debate with economist Dawie Roodt on Tuesday evening that the majority of the white working class and poor South Africans should join forces with their black counterparts in the pursuit of land expropriation without compensation.
Mngxitama, who was speaking at the Rumble in Jungle debate hosted by the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Cape Town, said these groups of white people should join forces with their landless black counterparts because only a few “white elite” own land in South Africa.
The BLF leader claimed that 35,000 – “who can’t fill up a stadium” – of the 4.5 million white South Africans own 80% of the land.
“So the majority of white people actually do not own land. So, this idea that they are the defence force of white monopoly capital, the elite white class, is irrational. A rational proposition would have been the white working class, the white poor [coming] together with black people and actually dispossess the white elite,” Mngxitama said.
The BLF leader said the land question in South Africa is not an economic one but rather one about identity, “and that is why the white working class is prepared to defend its ruling class”.
Mngxitama further claimed that 20% of South Africa’s highly productive agricultural land is owned by an estimated 7,000 white families and about six or seven agricultural conglomerates.
“So it is a highly concentrated ownership structure of the agricultural economy,” the BLF leader said, reiterating his point that the majority of white people should not oppose the redistribution of land.
Mngxitama said the mining sector in South Africa “is highly inefficient” because it is valued at R20 trillion in terms of its known minerals resources but only offers 400,000 jobs.
“Only for that reason, you should be redistributing that economic sector,” Mngxitama said, adding that the agricultural sector was equally “inefficient” because it creates “700,000 bad jobs”.
Roodt, who presented his argument ahead of Mngxitama, said what is of concern for him is that the governing party, the ANC, is in panic mode and is “ideologically confused” and so has done “all sorts of silly things” like calling for “the expropriation of private property”.
The economist said addressing the land issue in South Africa would simply require the state to perform its function of protecting private property rights.
“They must indeed give property, all kinds of property, back to its rightful owners. The rightful owners are not the blacks or the original people or the indigenous people. The rightful owners are people that can reasonably prove that they are the rightful owners or descendants of the rightful owners,” Roodt argued.
Expropriating land “from private individuals”, for Roodt, and for the state to be custodians of that land is senseless “because if something belongs to everybody, it belongs to nobody”.
Roodt said the government should continue with redistribution, “take from the rich and give to the poor”, because the country’s “fiscus is the most redistributive fiscus in the world”.
He added that for the state to continue with redistribution it would need “a productive sector to be able to create wealth”.
The answer to building a prosperous country, for Roodt, is not land expropriation but rather improving the quality of South Africa’s skills development and its education system, a matter which the economist said is “a national emergency”.
Watch the entire debate here.