Much to my disappointment, the South African Parliament passed a motion by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to endorse the expropriation of land without compensation.

Essentially, all political parties, except for the Democratic Alliance (DA) and one or two smaller others, voted in favour of a policy that gives government the power to seize land and property rights from individuals and families.

The argument put forward by the supporters of this policy is, of course, centred on the historical dispossession of many black South Africans of their property rights and land; first under colonial rule, then through racist apartheid legislation.

Let me be clear from the outset: the act of redressing this legacy by implementing a rational and legal process of land restitution is wholly justified. Indeed, I am in full support of a rational and moral process, founded on the rule-of-law and due process, for assessing valid land claims.

If the claim is proven to be valid through an evidence-driven process, then the beneficiary must have the option of reclaiming the land or accepting financial compensation for their loss. In the same breath, the individual set to give back the land should also be compensated for their loss, provided they didn’t use any measure of force to illegally claim that land.

Ultimately, it was the State, whether through the guise of colonialism or apartheid that was responsible for the dispossession of citizens in the first place. It is that same State today (albeit governed by a democratically elected party) which must act to redress its past mistakes and actions.

My approach is a just and sound policy, as where all parties find mediation and resolution.

This is why I cannot bring myself to agree with the EFF approach of land expropriation, which disturbingly calls for complete state ownership of all land.

Julius Malema is a forked-tongue politician. At Parliament’s podium and at his public rallies he shouts that the land “must be returned to our people”. He does not, however, tell the public, and specifically the black people he claims to trade for, that his approach entails dispossessing them too of whatever meagre property they have.

On this matter the record of history is absolutely crystal clear: the State owning something on behalf of the people does not translate to the people owning or enjoying the utility of that good.

It is this intellectual dishonesty and effort to undermine the intent and spirit of section 25 of the Constitution which makes the EFF very dangerous. While Malema talks of targeting “white land thieves” to “benefit landless blacks”, in reality the EFF is giving government the power to steal property from families, rich and poor.

I’ve yet to get an answer from Malema and his acolytes on how it is “pro-black” to demand that blacks become landless and permanent renters of land from the State, as is proposed in Point 2 of the EFF Land Policy.

It would seem that land expropriation without compensation and the State owning all land is a crude attempt by socialists to take away land from everybody, including black people. This policy is nothing short of theft and is the stuff of the economically illiterate.

A government owning land on behalf of blacks (or any citizen really), as is EFF policy, is immoral and patronising. It is anti-black and anti-poor!

Sadly, we’ve seen this show before on the continent, from Julius Nyerere’s disastrous Ujamaa policy in the 1960s, to Idi Amin’s expropriation without compensation of mostly Indian merchants land and businesses in 1972, to the collapse of our Zimbabwean neighbours after the wave of land grabs unleashed by Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF in the early 2000s.

Land Expropriation without compensation and the socialism which underpins it has been the killer of African aspirations for prosperity and development.

Most depressingly, and what the politicians don’t tell you, is that these measures kill the aspirations of black families looking to OWN land and have property rights, just as the colonialist and apartheid systems did.

There is nothing to celebrate here. Troubled times lay ahead for us South Africans, as our liberty is at stake. For far too long South Africans of all races have had to give up one freedom and liberty after another, at the hands of statist and socialist politicians.

Government should be a tool for empowering families and communities and enhancing their liberty, not making them dependents. I don’t see how taking our land without compensation and making us renters of the land of our birth is pro-South Africa, do you?

– Ngobese is spokesperson for the Western Cape department of social development. He writes in his personal capacity. 

COLUMNIST: Sihle Ngobese

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