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Land expropriation without compensation

6 March 2018

Last week Parliament resolved to review a clause in the Constitution dealing that prohibits arbitrary deprivation of property, and I wrote about my misgivings about such a step here.

I didn’t intend to say any more, because others have said quite a lot, and better than I could. One of the better articles on the issue is by Mondli Makhanya The Great Land Return Lie.

It seems to me that this was passed parliament mainly as a vote-catching tactic by the ANC, with an eye on the 2019 general election. The EFF was becoming a threat to their hold on power, and by stealing a plank from the EFF’s policy platform they seem to be hoping to neutralise the threat, or at least diminish it.

Well that is one of the things that politicians do, and that is the kind of thing one must expect if the country is run by politicians. It is rather sad, though, that the ANC, which gave us the constitution that inter alia protects us from arbitrary deprivation of property should be prepared to sacrifice it for a purely temporary advantage. Playing party political games with the constitution shows how far the ANC has fallen since the days of Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu.  It just goes to show that getting rid of Zuma did not solve all the problems in the ANC.

And as many have pointed out, the obstacle to dealing with the land issue is not the constitution, it is the failure of successive ANC governments to implement policies that are already in place.

That is bad enough, but some of the other things are worse.

For example this article appeared in Newsweek, a US publication that I did not previously think of as promoting the cause of the Alt-Right Thousands Sign Petition Asking Trump to Let White Farmers in South Africa Migrate to U.S. After Country Votes to Force Them Off Land.

That headline goes well beyond spin into the “fake news” category, as does this this one from the UK Independent South Africa votes through motion to seize land from white farmers without compensation | The Independent.

These deliberately misleading headlines seem calculated to stir up white racists everywhere, so one has to ask why these hitherto fairly respected publications seem to be promoting an Alt-Right white racist agenda? One expects spin from most of the media, but these go beyond spin into fake news territory.

And sensationalist and twisted reporting in overseas media has provoked all kinds of white supremacists overseas into seeking to recruit white people in South Africa to their cause.

By way of contrast, most of the South African reactions I have read has been more sober and thoughtful. For example this Steven Friedman: Land debate is about dignity, equality – not the constitution – I don’t agree with some of the things he says — for example, if it’s not about the Constitution, then leave the Constitution out of it. But at least he couches it in terms of a debate that we need to have, and not rabble-rousing among white racists, like Newsweek and the UK Independent.

If our Constitution needs amending, then I suggest that it needs to be amended to provide more protection from unscrupulous businessmen who seek to buy politicians and take over the state. And removing the constitutional protection against arbitrary deprivation of property would provide greatly expanded opportunities for such unscrupulous businessmen to do that very thing. But contrary to the impression created by the overseas media, that hasn’t happened yet. A committee has been set up to draw up proposals for parliament to debate, and until it produces the proposals, stories about forcing white farmers off the land are at best idle speculation, and at worst malicious rumour mongering and racist propaganda.

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