Aiming for ‘incremental nationalisation’

Government claims to be acting in the interests of the rural poor to redress “a great historical wrong”, but land reform of the kind that it proposes is “essentially a charade”, said Dr Anthea Jeffery of the SA Institute of Race Relations

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“Far from extending land ownership to many more black South Africans, the Green Paper and various other bills will work together to bring about incremental land nationalisation.” According to the Green Paper on Land Reform, for example, land belonging to the state could not be sold to private owners, while land restitution beneficiaries were not eligible for freehold title, said Jeffrey, adding that this entrenched the state’s current leasehold title approach under the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy.

There will be no ‘big-bang’ approach to land reform, said Jeffrey. Instead, government “will gradually assume ownership of ever more land, while more and more South Africans will find themselves without individual title and dependent on the state’s permission to occupy the land on which they live or work.”

Instead of helping black South Africans to own land, government’s proposed new policies, if carried into law, is likely to “prevent them from acquiring this important foundation for economic and political independence.” Jeffery said the state’s envisaged land reform policies seemed linked to a desire for absolute control.

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“The ANC and its partners in the tripartite alliance are committed to a national democratic revolution, aimed at giving the ANC, among other things, hegemonic control over all the levers of state power in the country. “Land is one such lever, as experience in Zimbabwe has illustrated. Land reform there – which Gugile Nkwinti recently took pains to praise – has left virtually all land in the hands of the government, which leases it to people on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.

“This has given the Mugabe administration a powerful instrument of political control. “SA’s ruling party may also want the same for itself as its already declining electoral support withers further in the future,” said Jeffrey.