Land reform takes centre stage at #SonaDebate

The ANC’s decision to expropriate land without compensation was a focal point at the State of the Nation Address (Sona) debate in parliament on Monday, with opposition parties split on whether to support the move, and threats being made to coalition governments.

President Cyril Ramaphosa repeated the ANC’s intention to expropriate land without compensation in his Sona on Friday night. But it is not yet clear if the party will implement its resolution to amend the constitution so that this can take place.

#SonaDebate: Ramaphosa warned not to mess up

On Monday, opposition parties responded with mixed reactions in the debating Ramaphosa’s address. Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane called on Ramaphosa to protect current property rights.

“Bold leadership requires that you resist the pressures in your own party to undo the rights enshrined in our constitution, including property rights,” Maimane began.

“We can speed up land reform by rooting out corruption and inefficiency. And we must trust emerging black farmers with real land ownership, not just the permanent tenants of the state…. We need a capable government and political will to hand over land. Not an amendment to the constitution.” Maimane said.

“Expropriation of land without compensation is incompatible with a growing and flourishing economy. You can have one or the other, but you can’t have both. In fact, this is what our neighbors in Zimbabwe started to pursue to such disastrous effects in the past,” Maimane concluded.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Julius Malema warned the DA that its attitude towards the expropriation of land could cost it the control of the metro municipalities where the EFF helped it take over after the 2016 local government elections.

“Your stay in the metros is going to depend on your attitude on the expropriation of land without compensation. And I want to warn you about that. For that’s a fundamental issue which is going to make us fight with you,” Malema said.

“Because anyone opposed to the expropriation of land without compensation is the enemy of our people, and such a person will be dealt with,” Malema said, before turning to Ramaphosa.

“They know you are not serious about it,” Malema said to the president. “This cannot be an issue to pass time with. It’s an emotive issue and you [should] only mention it if you mean it. It’s not a matter you can go around joking about,” Malema concluded.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) leader chief Mangosutho Buthelezi questioned why the ANC wanted to take away control of land in KwaZulu-Natal from the Ingonyama Trust, which is overseen by Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini.

Buthelezi asked why the ANC now appeared to be shunning the Ingonyama Trust Act, which legislated control of the land to the king.

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“What has changed? What does the ruling party see now that it didn’t see before? Why is the Ingonyama Act suddenly become the enemy number one?”

“Does the ruling party truly believe that bureaucracy in plush offices can administer traditional land better than those who have been the custodians of our people’s lives and dignity since time immemorial?” Surely the policy of land expropriation without compensation should not be used against the poorest of the poor,” Buthelezi continued.

Ramaphosa is due to reply to the debate on Tuesday.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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