OPINION | Chaotic land reform already under way

Locals erect shacks at Louiesenhof Wine farm near Kayamandi on August 10, 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This comes two days after the shacks were demolished by officials and red ants, following a court interdict to remove unoccupied structures, and to prevent more people from moving onto a vacant portion of the property
Locals erect shacks at Louiesenhof Wine farm near Kayamandi on August 10, 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This comes two days after the shacks were demolished by officials and red ants, following a court interdict to remove unoccupied structures, and to prevent more people from moving onto a vacant portion of the property
Image: File/ Gallo Images

There are two things we all need to keep in mind about the land debate. First, we just don’t know quite how bad land ownership disparity between black and white is because the state and the private sector don’t quite know themselves.

Agri SA says 26.7% of agricultural land is owned by black people and the government, reckons about 70% of agricultural land is in white hands.

The state’s land audit says 72% of agricultural land is white-owned, with 24% black-owned. Those numbers are bad. Anyone who doesn’t realise that we need to fix this is mad.

The second thing to keep in mind is this: the ANC has been in power since 1994.

In that time, it has done nothing to use the constitution to enable faster land reform.

When it has attempted land reform, it has been in a haphazard, half-hearted, inefficient and largely corrupt manner, which has benefited a very small elite of politically-connected individuals.

The problem is not the constitution. It is the ANC’s lack of political will.

So. In July I wrote that I should visit my mother in Hammanskraal, half an hour north of Pretoria city, more often.

I said this because I had just done that and had seen “entrepreneurs” put up signs on tracts of empty land and sign up people who promptly put up small, corrugated iron shacks on these properties for a fee.

I said then that President Cyril Ramaphosa can say as much as he likes that land restitution will be orderly, but he is not in touch with reality.

What I saw in at least five different places in one day in Tshwane said clearly that the land “redistribution” programme, if one could call it that, was well and truly in swing.

Ramaphosa had nothing to do with it. The EFF is in charge of it.

Well, on Saturday morning, I flew into SA from abroad and guess what I did? I visited my mother in Hammanskraal.

In Soshanguve, the three areas I had seen being occupied two months ago have now become a haphazard conglomeration of corrugated iron dwellings.

In my mother’s village, the two pieces of land I saw being occupied were now new settlements.

Soon there will be riots there. Residents will be demanding water, electricity and roads.

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s that it lacks coherence, order and certainty. It lacks the guiding hand that Ramaphosa has been talking about over the past weeks.

The people carving out the land are not revolutionaries. They are collecting cash, exploiting legitimate calls for faster land reform.

Crucially, I can go out today and start parceling out land and there will be no consequences – the police just let it slide.

This failure to ensure that property rights are protected while implementing an all-encompassing, efficient, just and equitable land reform programme will always come back to bite us. It is a recipe for anarchy.

Well, on Saturday you will have read on Timeslive that three black Limpopo landowners had approached the courts and had forced police minister Bheki Cele and Soshanguve station commander Brigadier Samuel Thine to take action against people who had invaded their land in Onderstepoort‚ north of Pretoria.

Dr Motodi Samuel Maserumule and his business partners approached the courts after four farms belonging to their company‚ Akubra Trading‚ were occupied and subdivided.

Maserumule said Soshanguve police had refused to open a case when he turned to them for help. Only after he approached AfriForum did things “start moving”.

“The station commander started to listen; an hour earlier the station commander was saying there is no way they can open the case…The phrase ‘expropriation of land without compensation’ did not induce a lot of emotions to me until Monday because now it is my property and it is not funny at all,” said Maserumule.

This one story makes the president’s words that there will be no land grabs ring hollow.

The reality right now is that we have a land debate that has no leadership (Ramaphosa has flip-flopped dangerously since July 31), no clarity and no certainty.

Ramaphosa has done well to begin to clean up the corrupt state. The state capture commission is in full swing. More will come.

Ramaphosa needs to start leading on land as well, or else his admirable deeds elsewhere will not stop the spiral of uncertainty.

One needs to look no further than the collapse of the Argentinian, Turkish and Venezuelan currencies currently to see what too much uncertainty can do. It impoverishes countries and it can bring down governments.

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