Land expropriation unlikely – analyst

The FW de Klerk Foundation says the Green Paper on Land Reform is ‘racial mobilisation against white farmers’. Political analyst Prof Steven Friedman disagrees. Lindi van Rooyen reports.

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Outrageous and unhelpful. This is how Friedman described statements made by the FW de Klerk Foundation and TAU SA that the Green Paper was a government tool to expropriate land from white farmers without compensation. “Where is the evidence? In what documents is it written? It is certainly the view of the ANC that land ownership in South Africa is skewed and must change, but to say that land will be taken away from farmers is not true,” Friedman told Farmer’s Weekly.

He was reacting to statements made by Dave Steward, executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation, at a recent AfriForum conference on land reform in Pretoria. Steward said the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution (NDR) would result in mass expropriation of land owned by white farmers.

“There can be no doubt that comprehensive land reform has consistently been one of the central goals of the NDR,” he said. “The Green Paper raises a few fundamental problems, one of which is the implicit characterisation of white farmers as ‘colonialists’, which comes close to hate speech. It is difficult to view the Green Paper as anything less than a document of racial mobilisation against white farmers.”

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Friedman said that calling someone a colonialist was hardly hate speech and Steward was trying to “whip up fear based on no facts”. “This is a total exaggeration and is harmful to the people and the reconciliation process,” he said. While acknowledging that Section 25 of the Constitution afforded property holders the right to fair compensation, Steward said it was “this section that government attempted to circumnavigate when it presented its Expropriation Bill to parliament in 2008”.

But Friedman argued that if the ANC wanted to change the Constitution, it could easily muster a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, as all it needed were just two votes to reach the 267 required.  “But it has never even attempted to do so,” he said. Steward said that if SA wished to retain any hope for reconciliation and national unity, it was essential that all South Africans be treated fairly.

“It would be unfair to deprive people against their will of land which they and their ancestors may have owned and developed for generations. It was unfair for whites to do this to black South Africans under apartheid and it would be equally unfair for blacks to do so to white South Africans in pursuit of their ideology of the NDR,” he said. But Friedman countered that although the idea of an NDR was found within the ANC, it was difficult to find any two people who could agree on what such a revolution must look like.

“Although there are those who want to take land from white hands and inflame the people, they are not in a majority position,” he said. Friedman also clarified statements made by land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti, who said land reform was happening too slowly. “Even though the minister feels that change is not happening fast enough, it is not the same as saying that land will be expropriated,” he said.