Politics blocks land reform

The barrier to effective land reform is a lack of political will and not the Constitution, says ANC economic transformation head Enoch Godongwana.

He dismissed as rhetoric the growing calls by some ANC leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, for radical economic transformation, which includes expropriation of land without compensation.

“These people who are making radical changes … what are those radical changes? People must be tested whether they are proposing practical things. They’re talking abstract. Can you ask them to say ‘These are the practical things to be done?’ ” Godongwana said in an interview with the Mail & Guardian this week.

The ANC released its discussion documents this week ahead of the party’s policy conference in June. Godongwana chairs the subcommittee on economic transformation, which drafted a policy document that is notably less fiery than some of the rhetoric that has been coming from Zuma’s supporters.

Radical economic transformation, or RET, is expected to be used as a proxy for the party’s succession battle, as debate begins ahead of the party’s elective conference in December.


Zuma’s supporters, who want his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him, have argued that the country’s transformation needs can best be met with a radical approach, which included land expropriation without compensation. The group that supports deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as the next ANC leader prefers a more measured approach.

The differences between Zuma’s supporters and those who back the measured view of the economic transformation subcommittee are likely to intensify the internal differences in the party.

One of the notable differences is the stance against “white monopoly capital”, a phrase used by Zuma supporters to refer to white dominance of the economy. This white dominance is blamed for blocking smaller entities from participating in the economy, thus stifling job creation and growth. White monopoly capital is seen as the main enemy to economic transformation.

But an alternative view proposed by the party’s subcommittee moves away from the rhetoric of white monopoly capital and instead focuses on corruption in government as a barrier to economic transformation.

“South Africa currently has a significant leakage of state resources, which has the effect of reducing the finances available for economic transformation. More must be done to stamp out corruption and wastage,” reads the discussion document on economic transformation.

The economic transformation sub-committee also looks inward at reasons for the ANC’s poor performance on land reform.

Godongwana argued against expropriation of land without compensation, saying poor political will — not the Constitution — was a barrier to effective land reform.

“For instance, we don’t have an expropriation Act 20 years after Mandela signed the Constitution. And yet you blame section 25 [of the Constitution]? We don’t have an expropriation Act. We bark at section 25 when we have not even tested the implications of section 25,” he said.

The subcommittee’s policy proposals find resonance with the moderate stance taken by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is also a member of the subcommittee.

Those in favour of RET have accused Gordhan of acting as a barrier to change by refusing to fund transformation programmes.

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu is among those who have lamented the treasury’s resource allocation — accusing it of underfunding her department and its transformation efforts.

But the subcommittee backs Gordhan’s approach, calling on those who want to enforce radical transformation programmes to consider the fiscal position.

“Proposals for new transformation programmes must be cognisant of the reality that resources are always finite and are particularly scarce when the rate of economic growth is slow,” it says.

It also reaffirms Gordhan’s call in his budget speech for a clear plan to accompany the planned radical economic transformation.

“Rather than radical-sounding rhetoric, it is the content, outcome and pace of the ANC’s programme of social and economic transformation that will bear testament to the radical nature of such a programme,” the subcommittee said.

The view that finds dominance in ANC policy will now be decided by branches as they begin deliberations on proposals by the nine sub-committees, including economic transformation.


Other ANC policy documents

  • Organisational renewal: The ANC wants to arrest the decline of its internal electoral process, which has fallen prey to factional battles and the manipulation of branches. Earlier this year, in a bid to bypass manipulation at provincial level, the national executive committee announced measures to curb interference with the nomination process by centralising votes to the party’s national office. Now the organisational renewal subcommittee has also proposed opening up the nomination and electoral process to allow for open contestation, saying secrecy in electoral process was creating fertile ground for factions to influence outcomes.
  • Legislature and governance: Proposals that the presidency be strengthened as the centre of power to drive the National Development Plan, the allocation of resources and other policies have been interpreted as taking power from the treasury, which has previously objected to funding programmes such as the nuclear build, because of budgetary constraints.
  • Communications: Though the party appears to have abandoned its calls for a media appeals tribunal, it affirms its support for the independent regulation of print media and proposes a study into a model for such regulation. The ANC also proposes allocating more of government’s advertising spend to community-based media

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Dineo Bendile
Dineo Bendile works from Johannesburg. Political reporter. BLACK. Dineo Bendile has over 2712 followers on Twitter.

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