I write to you to set out in clear terms the DA’s response to the EFF’s call to expropriate land without compensation, and their associated threat to unseat the DA-led government in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro if we do not support them in this call.
South Africa has a long history of violent and legislative dispossession of land. The effect of this dispossession was to destroy the intergenerational wealth creation potential of black families, and to leave black South Africans with a feeling of being unwelcome in the land of their birth.
The consequences of this trauma still reverberate in our society today, both emotionally and economically.
That is why the DA fully supports the constitutional injunction to restitute land and reform the still-skewed patterns of land ownership. This point must be emphasised: The DA supports land reform. The DA supports land restitution. We support the aim of building a diverse, prosperous agricultural sector.
What is more, as I shall show, the DA has the proudest track record of meaningful land reform of any government in South Africa.
However, we do not and will not ever support any programme aimed at the seizure of private property. We will not support any amendment to the Constitution aimed at allowing for such seizure. Accordingly, we voted against such a motion in the National Assembly yesterday, 27 February 2018.
The Democratic Alliance is now the only champion and defender of constitutional democracy in South Africa. Our party is founded on some fundamental principles: the rule of law, the protection of individuals’ rights and freedoms from a capricious state, free expression and a market economy with security of property. These principles are under assault in South Africa, and are worth defending.
The guarantee of property rights is the bedrock on which all economic growth and advancement is built. If people do not feel secure that what they own will not be arbitrarily and coercively seized from them, there will be no incentive to invest, to innovate, and to build productive businesses.
It is therefore false to argue, as has been argued by our opponents, that because the DA opposes land seizure, we oppose land reform. That is a lie.
The Constitutional protections against arbitrary deprivation in Section 25 do not in any way inhibit the state from pursuing effective land restitution and reform programmes. In fact, the Constitution specifically calls for such programmes.
The expropriation debate is a lazy attempt to scapegoat the Constitution instead of owning up to the real causes for the failure to reform land: bad policy, corruption and chronic underfunding.
Current ANC policy, shared by the EFF, is that the state should be the custodian of all land. This means that no black people are actually able to own land as beneficiaries of land reform. This state owned land is then to be parcelled out with short and medium term leases.
This is a patronising, insulting policy that shows that the ANC and the EFF do not trust black farmers enough to actually give them full onwership. It is their intention to turn black farmers into permanent tenants of the state, with all of the opportunities for patronage and corruption that comes with that approach. It also promises to deliver low agricultural productivity, as farmers will be hesitant to invest on land they do not own and with no guarantee of future leases, and banks will not loan to them on this basis.
Moreover, the ANC’s lack of commitment to real reform is revealed in the meagre budget allocations to these programmes over the years. Last year, only 0.14% of the national budget was allocated to land reform, the lowest figure ever. This budget has been in decline every year for the last ten years. Far from showing tangible commitment to speed up land reform, the ANC has been deliberately slowing it down.
The debate on expropriation allows the ANC a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It gives them the perfect cover to avoid having to explain their rank failure over two decades to take land reform seriously. That is why the ANC has adopted it with such enthusiasm.
Land expropriation without compensation is therefore bad principle, bad policy, and bad politics.
Our approach could not be more different. We want black emerging farmers to have full ownership title of their land, and we know that given the chance, they will flourish as farmers. These citizens should be respected as individuals with drive, agency and ambition in their own right, not as permanent dependants of the state.
We have championed the model of the share equity scheme, which allows farmworkers and beneficiaries to become equal partners in the farms where they live and work.
Where we govern, more than 60% of land reform projects actually work, compared with a 90% failure rate nationally (according to the national Minister of Land Reform).
We are not only focused on rural land reform. We are the only party in South Africa that has focused on reforming ownership of urban land by making sure that beneficiaries of state subsidised housing have full ownership title to those homes. We have made 75 000 home owners already, and are distributing more title deeds every day we are in government.
The implications of tampering with Section 25 go beyond agricultural land. Downgrading property rights also means downgrading the title deeds given to these thousands of black South Africans. Many of these first generation property owners had to wait two decades for lawful title to their homes. These properties give people access to bank loans, and assets to pass along to their children. Tampering with the ideal of private ownership is not only a threat to famers, it is a threat to South Africans who have just started to overcome the legacy of apartheid.
The DA will stand for the principle of property rights, because we know it is right. If the EFF makes good on their threats to remove us from government in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, then they will also be returning the corrupt ANC to government. Perhaps that is what they intend. Perhaps they even intend to return to the ANC permanently. Whatever they do, they will have to explain it to the public.
As for us, we will defend this principle. It is better to stand firm on this, even if it costs us, than to give in to the radical racial nationalism of the EFF.
All of history shows that the DA is right on this question. All of the facts about land reform in South Africa show that we are right. We can and must go out with confidence and make this argument, and win it.
We are the party that stands for the Constitution and that stands for bringing South Africans together. We know that our country can only work when we are together.
This is not a contestation of one race versus another. Our solidarity is not around race but around our values.
Racial divisiveness and economic chaos may satisfy a vocal minority, but the vast majority of South Africans want our country to work. They want our country to succeed. They know that we are better together. It is them that we must reach out to at this time and show that we are with them.
Redressing the painful legacy of the past does not require that we unstitch the Constitution and stoke the flames of hatred and division. The DA does not trade in the currency of quick fixes and soundbite solution. Those are the currency of populists and demagogues. That is why we reject expropriation without compensation.
Successfully redressing the legacy of land dispossession will require hard work, real commitment to root out corruption, commitment to provide the funds necessary and political will to implement.
Only the DA can provide that leadership.
Let us go out now and win this argument. The first opportunity to do so is in the upcoming registration weekend. We must make sure we get this message out ahead of the registration weekend, and I ask your support in ensuring we do so.
Thank you, Mmusi Maimane