Could The SA Land Issue Lead To Civil War?

The ANC has identified 139 farms to be expropriated while it tests the principles of our Constitution. Following disastrous public hearings in the Western Cape, could the SA land issue lead to civil war?
Jason Snyman
2018-08-07

The government has identified the first 139 South African farms to be expropriated in the coming weeks. This is according to insiders from the ANC party, who recently attended the two-day National Executive Committee lekgotla (conference or business meeting). The party members shared some insight into the legislative plans of what's being called the expropriation guinea pig scheme.

As most South Africans now know, the ANC government is pushing for an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution. To do this, Parliament first needs to pass and implement the Expropriation Bill, and once the amendment is in place, this Bill will allow for the conditional expropriation of land without compensation. 

This move will effectively eliminate the willing buyer, willing seller principle.
 

According to party insiders, the ANC also has a number of other plans in the mix. These include:

  • The drafting of a Redistribution Bill, aimed at providing a basis for deciding who will receive priority access to land once the reform programme kicks off;
  • The drafting of a Land Records Bill that will document all land-owners, formal and informal, and ensure security of tenure, and;
  • Amending the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act to recognise those civilians who have lived on a piece of land for longer than three years as the de facto owners of that piece of land. These people, going forward, cannot be dispossessed without their consent. 

There's also talk of implementing a tax or levy on unused / vacant land owned by 'absent' landlords, in an effort to get those landlords to relinquish ownership. This has been compared to those who purchase a stand in an estate. If the owner doesn't build something in that space within a certain time period, they could lose that stand.

So, you either have to use your land, sell your land, or pay a hefty tax for it.

Let's take a look at what all of this means.
 

The ANC To Test The Constitution

So, the ANC gave the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform a 'political mandate' to test the principles we currently have in the Constitution. The department responded by identifying 139 farms, all across the country, which will serve as test cases. Thus, the guinea pig scheme.  

What South Africa really wants to know is the whereabouts of these farms and whether or not they are occupied or currently being put to use. Unfortunately, this information is yet to be released.

What we know for sure, at this moment, is that the ANC is definitely prioritising the rapid release of land to be utilized for urban housing all across South Africa. We can expect these plans to be carried out before Christmas. 

We said we will take a multi-pronged approach to land,” said NEC member, Ronald Lamola. “We don't know when the process for amendment will be finalised.

So, the ANC isn't exactly waiting for Parliament to pass the proposed Constitutional amendment, and it's not a certainty that it ever will. In the meanwhile, according to Lamola, the party will continue to expropriate land in this way while the Parliamentary process runs parallel.

Members of the ANC's Commission on Restitution of Land Rights all reportedly agree that, as the Constitution currently stands, the government is already able to expropriate land without compensation, if it wants to, and many are lobbying for 'blanket nationalisation'. 

Those of the ruling party, who are mainly aligned with President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, prefer a measured approach, in which the necessary conditions for expropriation are clearly set.

The Expropriation Bill will supposedly outline the conditions under which the state can go ahead and expropriate land without compensation.
 

How Will Expropriation Impact The Economy?

Even if Parliament approves the amendment, Constitutional testing will still go ahead with the farms in order to achieve absolute clarity.

In speaking about the impact this long-term move would have on the economy and investments, ANC NEC member, Zizi Kodwa, said:
 

Both domestic and international investors must appreciate that long-term investment is tied [to] ownership of land by the majority of people. In other words, if you are talking about sustainable long-term certainty, it is tied to addressing the injustices of the past.

Kodwa emphasised that the move is necessary for the long-term stability of the country. Of course, the glacial speed of the process is breeding a massive amount of uncertainty.
 

Obviously then there may be a negative impact in terms of the markets, but over time I think the markets, as well as investors, will appreciate that what we are doing is creating policy certainty and creating the conditions for future investment.

Kodwa is hoping for the Expropriation Bill to be approved by Parliament before the end of the year.
 

Speaking Of Negative Impacts…

On the morning of Ramaphosa's announcement that government would amend the Constitution, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey results revealed that for the first time in history, the number of unemployed South Africans had almost hit the 10 million mark.

Economist Mike Schussler stated that, currently, there are now more unemployed than employed people in five of our nine provinces. If it weren't for Gauteng and the Western Cape, our unemployment rate would be higher than the employment rate.

Later that night, Ramaphosa's announcement sent South Africa reeling. The decision to amend our Constitution in order to clarify the conditions under which land can be expropriated without compensation was interpreted by many South Africans to mean that the whole thing had been given the go ahead.

Ramaphosa's announcement thereby dramatically worsened the very conditions which gave rise to the first – that our economy is headed for total collapse. 

It has been speculated that, perhaps, our President is too concerned with keeping the ANC factions together, instead of focusing on advancing the best interests of the country. In a nutshell, that would be to bring down our harrowing unemployment rate.

Our greatest fear, as South Africans, is that we haven't learnt anything from the hard lessons thrust upon our neighbour – Zimbabwe – which saw their economy and self-sufficiency absolutely obliterated by land grabs. Millions of Zimbabwean citizens, turned into refugees, seemingly overnight.

Because that fear is so incredibly prevalent – carried in the forefront of our minds all day long – and because the issue of land is so symbolic in South Africa, and such a sensitive topic, it's little surprise that many have responded extremely negatively to this announcement.
 

The Western Cape Divided

Public hearings on the land issue came to a close this weekend in the Western Cape, where matters not only got heated, but took a disconcerting turn altogether. 

A variety of communities staked their claim to the Western Cape. Leading that motion was the San's Gorachouqua tribe chief, Hennie van Vuuren, who stated that his people are being excluded from the expropriation issue and that the government is ignoring the fact that the San people were dispossessed of their land as far back as 1913. Van Vuuren demanded that the San and Khoi people – the first nations – be recognised as the rightful owners of the Cape – and South Africa as a whole. 

Some claimed ownership through having worked the land.

Descendants of slaves who built up the coastal towns, and gave rise to the traditional and commercial fishing trade, were present, and demanded ownership of the land that had been promised to them almost 30 years ago. 

In the same vein, Western Cape farm workers laid claim to the land which they had worked and helped become profitable.
 

Farm workers who build up the farms of the whites so that their children can inherit it, also need something to leave our kids with when we die,” said farmworker, Beckie Fortuin. “Because all we are left with is a shack.

Malusi Booi, of the DA, shone a light on the fact that South Africans have taken loans out against their properties, and with the expropriation of land, the country will be collapsing the very economy currently sustaining us. 

Could The Land Issue Lead To Civil War?

Naturally, there were also fervent denials, by several organisations, of the land ever being stolen during the colonisation of the Cape. It was argued that the entire process had been orchestrated by the ANC to trigger war in South Africa.

And indeed, several threats of civil war dominated the hearings, with talk of defending farms and private property by any means.

Jack Miller, leader of the Cape Party, suggested that the push for expropriation of land without compensation is the final step in the ANC's plan to trigger a bloodbath and create racial separation in South Africa.

Former apartheid defence soldier, Bernard Herbet, dressed in old military colours, raised tensions to fever pitch when he hinted that expropriation would lead to armed conflict. Before leaving the hearing, Herbet said;
 

All I can tell you is a war is only won through proper preparation.

Other speculations of ANC meddling were a little less sinister, but worrying nonetheless.

Leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, addressed a gathering of supporters outside of the venue. He stated that the EFF is the ANC's policy machine, and accused the ANC of only supporting the EFF's motion for expropriation without compensation in order to gain support ahead of the 2019 national elections.
 

Over the past days and weeks, it has become clear that these hearings, and this debate, is not about the people and progress,” said Maimane. “It is about power and holding onto it.