Take a leaf from Mr Codrington: Ramaphosa

Graeme Codrington

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, says that the opposition should not engage in ‘swart gevaar” tactics and “pontificating” about the move to expropropriate land without compensation. He says a constitutional review would determine whether “or not” the property clause should change. In short he pointed to the words of 47-year-old Graeme Codrington who urged his fellow whites to step back for a while “and listen” to the arguments about land dispossession

Ramaphosa provided some clarity on what land his government was looking to expropriate. He pointed to Democratic Alliance Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, who Ramaphosa said had shown the way. The mayor said that buildings left behind by landlords who could not be found, should be expropriated without compensation.

The president referred to “this Herman Mashaba”. He said the mayor had said his city would expropriate buildings to expand “affordable accommodation”. Johannesburg was willing to expropriate inner city buildings where the owners could not be located and a fair selling price could not be negotiated, Ramaphosa quoted the mayor as saying. “(He said) he would expropriate such buildings without compensation.”

Ramaphosa’s reference to the DA mayor is significant because it was the DA leader Mmusi Maimane who questioned the ANC’s commitment to land expropriation without compensation. Indeed, it was he who asked the president about this in parliament on Wednesday afternoon. Maimane has argued that this robbed people of their properties and in societies where this process had been carried out, the result had been widespread poverty and unemployment.

Significantly, Ramaphosa said there was much state and state-owned enterprise land which could be parcelled for use by poor and previously dispossessed South Africans. Ramaphosa was replying to concerns from the Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald that farmers should be viewed as an integral part of the economy of South Africa – and state land holdings should be looked at for redistribution – rather than farm land.

Ramaphosa repeatedly said the rights of property and landowners would be protected. He also emphasised that land invasions were illegal.

He also alluded to “a clear strategy” to dispose of un-utilised publicly-owned land for inclusive urban development “to bring poor people” from the periphery into the centre of the cities.

Ramaphosa referred to the Facebook post by Codrington who had advised his fellow white South Africans against feelings of panic over the expropriation questoin. Codrington had asked them to make a careful reading of the recent motion passed by parliament on expropriation.

Noting that the African majority had only two percent of rural land and only seven percent of urban land – in terms of a recent land audit – Ramaphosa urged that it was imperative to do something about the exclusion of black Africans from land. He said that the emphasis should lie on the poor in particular.

When Maimane argued that countries which took away people’s land without compensation boosted unemployment and poverty, Ramaphosa said: “It is quite clear that the Honourable Maimane is not listening. He is clearly not listening. Maybe if I can whisper to him he will hear better.”

Land expropriation would be just one mechanism of achieving land reform in the country. Ramaphosa said there needed to be a broad discussion about whether there should be an amendment to the constitution “or not”.

However, land expropriation must be achieved by ensuring that it did not damage agricultural production, food output or the economy as a whole.

The Cape Messenger notes that Ramaphosa was referring to author and strategy consultant Graeme Codrington’s opinion piece on Facebook – posted on Friday. Codrington reminded his ‘white friends’ that this is not the first time government is taking land, and it’s ‘about justice’.

The 47-year-old Codrington has advised white South Africans against feelings of panic about these developments, pointing out that a careful reading of the motion passed in the National Assembly on the 27th of February, among many other things, “acknowledges that the African majority was only confined to 13% of the land in South Africa while whites owned 87% at the end of the apartheid regime in 1994”; “that the recent land audit claims that black people own less than two percent of rural land, and less than seven percent of urban land” and expropriation would be “implemented in a manner that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid and undertake a process of consultation to determine the modalities of the governing party resolution”.

Codrington advised his “white South African friends” that that this would not be “the first time the South African government has taken land without paying for it”.

“In fact, it’s at least the fifteenth time the government of South Africa has passed laws to take land.

“Please do us a favour: if your ancestors did not comment about the previous fifteen times the government took land (and I am guessing that, like mine, they did not), then right now would be a good time to be quiet for a bit and listen.

“Not forever. Just for a bit. And then calmly contribute to the conversation over the next few weeks and months in an attempt to find a solution that helps everyone.”

Here is the list of laws he details as having taken land from non-white people in recent history:

  • The Glen Grey act of 1894 (Under Cecil John Rhodes)
  • The Native Land Act of 1913 (Act 27)
  • The Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure of 1930
  • The Riotous Assemblies Act 19 – 1930
  • The Asiatic Immigration Amendment Act of 1931
  • The Native Service Contracts Act of 1932
  • The Native Trust and Land Act of 1936 (Act 18)
  • The Slums Act of 1934
  • The Development Trust and Land Act of 1936 (Act 18)
  • The Rural Dealers Licensing Act of 1935.
  • The Representation of Blacks Act 12 of 1936.
  • The Black (Native) Laws Amendment Act 46 of 1937
  • The Pegging Act of 1946
  • The Group Areas Act of 1950 (Act. 41)

He concluded by writing that none of these laws went “back too far” as “the first of these Acts were passed in my grandmother’s lifetime”, so it would not be valid to “moan about ‘how far back do we have to go’”.

According to his online biography, Codrington lives and works in Johannesburg and “his insights into generational theory [have] resulted in two books published by Penguin”.

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