Land Expropriation – why you should not worry

First published on News24 (25 July 2018) by Paul Herman

ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile says the land question is not about targeting people’s houses or private property, nor about targeting white farmers specifically. Mashatile was addressing the Cape Town Press Club at Kelvin Grove in Newlands on Tuesday and he fielded multiple questions on the economy, land and ailing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The ANC top six member told the audience that the land debate was becoming distorted. “There were people who I met earlier in the year who asked if we were going to take away their houses. I said we had no such intention. Why should we come to suburbs and take people’s houses? “That’s not the land question, to take people’s houses and private property.”

When asked if the ANC would target white-owned farms, Mashatile responded clearly: “This answer is no. Everybody’s land. Redistribution must look at whether the land is used productively, whether there is energy security and so on. We are not targeting white farmers.” Mashatile acknowledged that when the ANC previously called for land to be returned to “our people”, they generally meant the previously disadvantaged.

Cases must be handled ‘orderly’

Therefore, the ANC’s current approach to the land question is to test the allowances in the law, while Parliament conducts its process to ascertain whether the Constitution needs to be changed. “Some of our advisers have said you don’t need to amend the Constitution because there is no court of law that has ever ruled on the matter. “So the ANC has decided that we will ask government [departments] to proceed with this matter while Parliament is testing this.” Mashatile stressed that test cases must be handled “orderly”.

“This is not land grabs. In fact, in contrast, it will avoid land grabs because it will be controlled by the state.

“Government must be the one to identify land to be expropriated and go beyond focusing on just privately-owned land. When we start rolling out restitution, security of tenure, we will look at all land, especially government-owned land. “The government owns vast tracts of land. There is land lying fallow, owned by absentee landlords, and we have to look at all of that.”

Land must be used productively

They also agreed that, unlike in the past, farmers have to be working the land. “There needs to be support and that would ensure food security.” In urban areas, people simply needed a place to build their own houses.

“When I was MEC in the Gauteng legislature, people were saying: ‘Don’t worry about RDP houses. Just give us land. We will build our own houses. Give us title deeds so we have security and we will go to [the bank] and raise money against our assets’.” Ultimately, in rural areas, they want land to be used productively. In urban areas, they want available land for people to receive title deeds and build their own houses.

“The ANC won’t walk in and say: ‘We see your factory and it’s working well, but we want your land’. If it’s working productively [there is no worry]…”

As the ANC, they will test expropriation without compensation as it currently stands in the law and “if there is a problem, the courts will tell them”.

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