Land bungle busts the myth that the ANC wants to make black South Africans property owners – IRR

28 October 2020 - The ANC’s ideological opposition to allowing black South Africans to become freehold landowners in a prosperous, property-owning democracy has turned its announcement on releasing 700 000 hectares of ‘vacant and underutilised’ land for agricultural development into a public relations disaster.

The ANC’s ideological opposition to allowing black South Africans to become freehold landowners in a prosperous, property-owning democracy has turned its announcement on releasing 700 000 hectares of ‘vacant and underutilised’ land for agricultural development into a public relations disaster.

The scheme in no way transfers ownership of property away from the state to citizens.

Moreover, the government’s list of properties earmarked for redistribution includes the farm of David Rakgase, who in 2019 won a lengthy court battle that culminated in a court order instructing the state to sell him the land he had been farming for decades.

It is clear the government’s attempt to score an easy public-relations win on the issue of land and property rights has backfired.

The plan was doomed to failure because of government capacity constraints and the ANC’s ideological opposition to allowing black South Africans to become freehold landowners.

The initiative, announced in September by Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, makes no provision for awarding beneficiaries ownership of the land, but rather envisages 30-year, non-transferable, restrictive leases with compulsory training programmes.

In addition, it has since become apparent that, seemingly in approximately a third of cases, ‘vacant and underutilised’ land earmarked for redistribution is already occupied and being actively utilised – and, cynically, includes David Rakgase’s farm.

As a result of his determined battle against the government, Mr Rakgase, an industrious black farmer of repute, has become a prominent figure in the debate surrounding property rights in South Africa. The government’s indefensible treatment of Mr Rakgase exposes its deep-seated hostility to private land ownership and insistence on state ownership.

By bungling the rollout of its newest scheme, aimed at dressing up state ownership of land as something other than modern feudalism, the ANC has shown itself to be uninterested in actual solutions to issues of land ownership and ignorant of the real state of the land – who occupies it, who uses it, and who owns it.

“People honestly interested in finding solutions make the effort to understand problems, data, and the realities of life in South Africa. In contrast, political ideologues, insulated from reality, pursue pipedreams, sacrificing the homes, farms and livelihoods of ordinary people to appease the twin ideological gods of state ownership and centralised power,” says Hermann Pretorius, Deputy Head of Policy Research at the IRR.

“Far from being a step in the right direction, Minister Didiza’s latest attempt to put a positive spin on the state’s cack-handed handling of land reform starkly illustrates the lies told by the government and its allies in the property rights debate: No, property rights are not being undermined with the virtuous intention of correcting past injustices and create a class of black landowners. Let us remember the position of government in the Rakgase case, as set out in its court papers. These made clear that redistribution policy rests on the ‘principle that black farming households and communities may obtain 30-year leases, renewable for a further 20 years, before the state will consider transferring ownership to them’.

Says Pretorius: “The ANC and its ideological allies have no interest in empowering black South Africans to become property owners.

“Again and again, the ANC’s policy engagement on property rights illustrates its intention to erode private property ownership. From mineral rights to land to pensions and savings, the constant in the ANC’s policies is denying South Africans ownership of what they have worked hard to earn.”

Media contact: Hermann Pretorius, IRR Deputy Head of Policy Research – 079 875 4290; hermann@irr.org.za

Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za

Kelebogile Leepile Tel: 079 051 0073 Email: kelebogile@irr.org.za

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