In a long interview given to Afrikaans weekly Rapport published on Sunday, former president Thabo Mbeki made it clear that he doesn’t buy the idea that white people in South Africa should be thought of as “land thieves”.
He said the ANC had been “rushed” in deciding to change the constitution on the matter of land expropriation when it voted on the matter at Nasrec in December 2017. He said it was clear to him that the ANC still had no clear plan for the economy or how to deal with the so-called land question.
Mbeki also criticised the current interpretation of the Freedom Charter that he claimed was being misused to push a more radical agenda.
He said the charter had always been clear that the land should be shared among those who worked it.
“It does not say black, white, settler, no settler,” he was quoted saying in a translation by City Press. “So has the ANC now departed from this position?”
He called the Nasrec resolution a populist policy position that needed to examined more rationally.
“The thesis that there were settlers who came to South Africa [who] took our land without compensation, and therefore we must take that land back and give it to other people, what does that mean?”
He said the ANC could not on the one hand say South Africa belonged to all who lived in it, black and white, as the Freedom Charter had declared, only to then make an exclusion when it came to land.
“You can’t. It’s not right.”
In another interview given to the Sunday Times, Mbeki made it clear that although he had decided to give his party another chance and campaign for it, he was yet to be completely convinced the ANC was committed to stopping the rot in its ranks.
He said it would remain to be seen how much practical correction would be implemented following elections.
In February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that investors need not fear that their investments and assets would be taken away from them during land expropriation without compensation, as this measure would be undertaken in a way that did not undermine the principles of South Africa’s constitution.
“This measure will be undertaken in a way that promotes economic development and agricultural output and that does not undermine the principles of our constitution or the rule of law,” he said.
Speaking at the Investing in African Mining Indaba at the International Conference Centre Cape Town, Ramaphosa said the government had used the opportunity to outline to investors its approach to land reform, which had raised concern about the proposal for the expropriation without compensation.
“We must emphasise that our approach will enhance, rather than undermine, property rights as we seek to address what we have termed the original sin which was committed against black South Africans during colonial and apartheid days.
“The measure we are proposing will apply to land for the purposes of land reform only and within a clearly defined set of circumstances,” the president said.