Land issue is already a big election scrap

A land invasion at Kraaifontein.

Since the December resolution passed at the conference of the African National Congress supporting land expropriation without compensation, there have been concerted land invasions in Tshwane/Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Economic Freedom Fighters has taken responsibility for land invasions. The Democratic Alliance – kickstarting its campaign for the 2019 national election – has sent out SMSs nationwide warning people to register to vote so that their homes, flats and land are not taken away

The land issue overnight has turned into a powder keg. Property was destroyed and public property was damaged in Gugulethu and Philippi  – both townships of Cape Town – during violent land invasions last week.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille has been on the scene of some of the invasions. She told the invaders that the city “cannot tolerate or accept any justification for the destruction of property during protest action.” While the city respected the right to protest, violence and destruction cannot be condoned, she said.

Roads were blocked and protesters built barricades. There were scenes of streets festooned with rocks and bricks.

IOL reported a backyarder leader, Ludwe Joka, as saying that backyarders living in Gugulethu had formally engaged with government for years “to no success”. Protesting was the only way to go now, he said.

De Lille has promised to negotiate with private landowners whose land has been invaded to find out if the land could be sold – but this is a risky strategy which appears already to have backfired. The city does not have a budget for bailing out private land owners.

The mayor also urged private land owners to fence off their land and secure it against invasion, which is easier said than done.

The backyarders are demanding that either government provide them with homes or they must be provided with land to build their own homes. The mayor said the city would not tolerate land invasions which were “illegal” and posed fire, health and flood risks.

GroundUp reports that from Saturday scores of people have occupied two open spaces in Bloekombos, Kraaifontein. They built shacks on Monday. The land is opposite the Bloekombos clinic and further down the road near Nomasi Street in Kraaifontein.

Meanwhile in Johannesburg the DA Mayor, Herman Mashaba joined ANC Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile to secure an order stopping people from invading land in the Orange Farm area.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who says the the policy of land expropriation without compensation is now a key ANC policy, says that land invasions are illegal. He warned – after land was invaded at Olivenhoutbosch in the City of Tshwane (Pretoria area) – that the invaders would face the full might of the law.

However, the ANC’s position on land is now fuzzy. The national ruling party supported an EFF motion calling for a change in the constitution.

In February the ANC backed an EFF motion on land expropriation without compensation in Parliament. This establishes a committee to review and amend Section 25 of the constitution to make it possible for the State to expropriate land in the public interest – without compensation. At present the section – known as the property clause – states that the government must make laws and take other steps to provide land for people to live on.

The Economic Freedom Fighters – which has backed the DA-led city governments in Tshwane and Johannesburg and recently gave its votes to Patricia de Lille to remain the DA mayor of Cape Town – has openly supported land invasions.

TimesLive reported EFF chairperson in Gauteng Mandisa Mashego as saying that the EFF had a permanent land occupation programme “which everyone should be fully conversant with. So we are continuing with land occupation in the business-as-usual manner we have been pursuing since the formation of the EFF in 2013”.

This policy has already put the EFF on a collision course with the DA – the only major party to oppose the land expropriation motion in Parliament recently. DA leader Mmusi Maimane was reported by TimesLive on Monday as saying the expropriation of land without compensation “is state-sanctioned theft”.

Property rights were the bedrock of development and economic growth, he said.

It is clear that the property rights issue is quickly becoming  a key ingredient of the campaign that is hotting up already ahead of the 2019 national election.

1 Comment on "Land issue is already a big election scrap"

  1. EEF ought to be careful using this dangerous instrument for populist reasons. Looking at the present situation in Zimbabwe where the new leader Mnangagwa is desparately looking for old/new white farmers to invest under rather favourable conditions in order to overcome the food-crisis in a country which used to be Africa´s breadbasket shows them where politics driven by populism and/or by clinching to power lead. They must be aware which consequences their attempts have for the overall economic climate (and thus foreign direct investment urgently needed for job-creation), the stability of the banking system and above all food-security. Have they a precise idea how many of their followers would be really willing to work on their fields from sunrise to sunset and how many just want a plot in order to built themselves a decent home in their home area? What about the training of the new farmers without personal experience, assistance by extension workers and support by cooperatives? How can they obtain credits without be able to offer collaterals? Would that not ask for a new appraoach to communal land beforehand? Best intentions and good will cannot replace realities on the ground wherever the latter may be.

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