By Andile Mngxitama
Derek Hanekom was the first minister of land affairs in a democratic South Africa. He was appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1994 and given a clear mandate to return land to black people, but instead, Hanekom chose to sabotage Mandela and defend his kith and kin.
Much like his predecessor and close friend, Kraai van Niekerk, who was the Chairman of the National Party in the Northern Cape at some point and served as Minister of Land Affairs under FW de Klerk, Hanekom has proven the adage, “blood is thicker than water”, to be true. This son of the Afrikaner colonial settlers chose his own race above the people of Nelson Mandela.
The African National Congress (ANC) converted its main pre-1994 policy document, ‘Ready to Govern’, into an implementation programme called the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). The RDP was the election manifesto of the ANC in 1994 and Mandela was the president of the soon-to-be ruling party. All the main promises and targets for “post apartheid” reconstruction are contained in the RDP.
On land redistribution, the RDP is very clear on targets. It says, “[t]he programme must aim to redistribute 30 percent of agricultural land within the first five years of the programme. The land restitution programme must aim to complete its task of adjudication in five years.” Mandela gave the task of meeting these targets to Hanekom by appointing him as the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs. It is important to note that part of the reason Mandela chose Hanekom was because the latter and his friends were deeply involved in some ameliorative process around apartheid forced removals.
Hanekom was given a clear mandate to deliver 30% of the land by 1999 from 1994. Needless to say, Hanekom spectacularly failed to meet even 1% of the target as set by Mandela’s government. Instead, after five years, Hanekom and his friends had delivered no land, they had helped mass evictions of farm workers from land and had entrenched the bizarre idea that blacks must buy back land from whites.
The RDP makes provision for land expropriation albeit with compensation which must be paid “according to means of the beneficiaries”. During his tenure, which was critical in designing the policy framework set up by the RDP, Hanekom moved away from any notions of expropriation and instead designed a land policy infrastructure which compelled blacks to buy back land from whites despite the historic fact that the land was unjustly and illegally dispossessed from black people.
The policy infrastructure left by Hanekom when he left office was the anti-black and unjust “willing buyer, willing seller” policy. Basically, we blacks could only get land by buying it from whites who could refuse to sell to us if they are not willing to sell. Hanekom’s policy put blacks at the mercy of those who stole our land. The sad thing is all ministers who succeeded Hanekom, from Thoko Didiza to Gugile Nkwinti, have been loyal to the Hanekom policy and practice. The cumulative effect of which is that after 23 years of ANC rule, about 8% of the land has been bought back. It will take us close to 100 years to buy back just the 30% promised to us in 1994 by Mandela, in supposedly five years.
Hanekom never believed that land must be taken from whites and returned to blacks. That’s why he sabotaged Mandela’s commitment to return 30% of the land in five years. If the RDP targets where followed, as we speak, well over 90% would have been in the hands of blacks. In other words, Mandela’s RDP, while correctly criticized for being socially democratic instead of being socialist, was still a pragmatic reprogramme which could have resolved the colonial and apartheid land questions. Such a reality was too much to contemplate for Hanekom.
If we subject Hanekom’s approach to land redistribution to critical inquiry, we understand why he calls land expropriation without compensation “nonsense”. We recall that during the ANC policy conference, Hanekom lost it and told the conference that expropriation of land without compensation was rubbish and that “[i]t will do very serious damage to our economy and is seriously unjust”. If you ever wondered how Hanekom failed so dismally to redistribute land to blacks, I hope now it is clear why.
Mandela, in his good heart and almost naive belief in non-racialism, believed that Hanekom would prioritise the demands of reconstruction above those of race. Mandela was wrong. We know now that Hanekom believes that land reposession is unjust.
Students of transfomation and how race defines and constrains change would do well to analyse Hanekom’s appointments in the department of land affairs. All the top management positions were filled by his white friends across the divisions of the department. He appointed Advocate Geoff Budlender as his Director General and together with other whites, they fine-tuned a land policy which doesn’t deliver land. The restitution arm of land reform which was also to be done in five years is in tatters because of the policy legacy of Hanekom.
If land expropriation without compensation is to become a reality, an honest assessment of how the promise to address the land question by Mandela was sabotaged is needed and at the centre of the betrayal of the RDP commitment to land return, you will find Derek Hanekom. While policy framework design is a collective responsibility, implementation is a function of the ministeries. If only Hanekom had implemented what the RDP prescribed, the land issue would be addressed.
There is a sad tale to be told on how Hanekom dealt with the embarrassment of achieving less than 1% of land return after five years. He simply shifted the blame to a black person. Joe Seremane who was the first Chief Commissioner of the Restitution Commission was thrown under the bus to divert attention from a minister who had failed to deliver land by design as we now know.
Land expropriation without compensation can only be delivered by those whose destinies are linked with the landless of our country. It is inconceivable to leave such a task to the sons and daughters of the progeny of the settler colonial stock.