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The landless have been misled: An open letter to Ramaphosa & Malema

Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mr Julius Malema

I’m moved to write this open letter to both of you in a desperate hope that you will be able to muster enough courage to tell the nation the truth. In February, an event which can be justifiably characterised as “historic” happened – your political parties cast aside petty differences and agreed on land expropriation without compensation. The nation celebrated.

However, eight months later, it’s clear that parliament’s resolution on land expropriation without compensation was in fact nothing but a collosal political fraud, perhaps bigger than the CODESA compromise. Just like how pastors feed expectant and desperate members of their congregations dog meat and rats, politicians gave the landless and hungry empty promises.

What has triggered this letter is last week’s parliamentary notice that the report on the public hearings on land expropriation without compensation will in fact not be tabled as promised, and in this respect further hearings will be undertaken. May I humbly remind both of you gentlemen that when you enjoyed the adulation of the nation for the great feat, you had promised that a report will be tabled at the end of August this year. The release of the report was subsequently extended to the end of September 2018 and has since been further extended to another date in the future. That these delays do not perturb you, gives credence to the view that you both actually never wanted to amend the constitution to give land back to the poor. What you really want are votes. You will therefore string the landless poor along until the 2019 elections and get their votes with empty promises. How else must we read your indifference?

Right from the beginning, we raised questions about why two black political parties which have the required two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution, would not do so and instead unleash a “public participation” process? The public hearings themselves amount to a bogus process to delay amending the Constitution. To this end, these hearings fall outside the formal legislation making process – they are an unnecessary process about something which has already met national consensus.

Black people want their land back. Why would you send a parliamentary committee to the landless to ask them to justify why they want their land back? The whole process was an insult projected as respect for democracy. The roadshow bought you some time to shirk off the responsibility of amending the Constitution to give land to the landless. You avoided offending the interests of the current land owners.

There has been confusing and contradictory statements from both of you which further indicate that you just don’t have the courage and conviction to address the land question. We have heard mention of expropriation of only “unused and unproductive land”. We have also heard the insulting notion that focus must be laid on state land when in fact 80% of the land in South Africa is in private hands. There has been the further anti-black sentiment about protecting the agricultural sector as if blacks are a menace instead of actual farmers who are denied land in their own country. It’s almost impossible not to conclude that both of you gentlemen are more concerned about the fears of white land owners instead of the plight of the black landless majority.

We know that there was no need to conduct “public hearings”. The most logical route open to you was to simply draft a Bill amending Section 25 of the Constitution to bring it in line with the parliamentary resolution on land expropriation without compensation. You avoided this route and opted for a delaying tactic. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African National Congress (ANC) together have the two thirds majority. This begs the question, what are you waiting for?

It is clear that you have no intension of amending the constitution to realize land expropriation without compensation. You are using the land hunger of our people to get votes in the coming elections. It’s our duty to ask you to come clean and tell the nation that there will be no amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution before the 2019 election. We dare say, after the elections you will abandon the talk of land expropriation. Basically, the landless have been misled!

Gentlemen, there is still time to salvage yourselves. Stop the delay tactics and bring a Bill on land expropriation to parliament before the 2019 elections. Let’s see if you are serious about actually expropriating land or if you just want to take back small pieces of abandoned barren land, thereby leaving the colonial land ownership patterns unchanged. The easier route open to you is the truth. Tell the nation the truth. Tell them that there will in fact be no amendment of the constitution – what you want are the votes of the landless without giving them land.

It’s the old politicians game of taking without giving back.

Andile Mngxitama
Black First Land First (BLF) President