Picture: Matthews Baloyi/African News Agency (ANA)
In the most significant intervention by former president Thabo Mbeki since he left the presidency, he described the expropriation of land without compensation policy of the ANC in deeply unflattering terms.

He clearly regards the policy as a betrayal of the ANC’s history and principles.

An internal document of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, “not yet intended for public consumption”, was leaked a few days ago. In it, the policy is described as a radical departure from the historical positions of the ANC, encapsulated in the Freedom Charter and our democratic Constitution.

Mbeki’s document highlights the dispute between the ANC and the PAC when the latter described a provision of the Freedom Charter (“South Africa belongs to all who live in it”) as a betrayal and splintered away from the ANC.

Mbeki says that taking land away from white people and giving it to black people suggests that whites are not fully South African.

What is striking is that Mbeki tackles the ANC and former leader Jacob Zuma while carefully avoiding attacking President Cyril Ramaphosa - when he might have done - despite the fact that the policy has become Ramaphosa’s signature policy initiative. Mbeki is not taken in by the wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude of many commentators towards Ramaphosa’s repeated commitments to the policy.

Some of the clever people suggest that Ramaphosa does not really believe in the policy and has adopted it to keep a section of his party quiet and undercut the EFF.

“It’ll never happen” is the cry by many who cannot believe that Ramaphosa is so foolish as to think that the policy offers any real prospect of dealing with the land reform imperative of South Africa. The fact is that it is the ANC’s policy.

Mbeki obviously does believe that the ANC is serious (if seriously misguided) and he sees it as evidence of the change of the very nature of the ANC: it no longer speaks for all South Africans and has become a black party.

In remarkably frank language he excoriates Zuma, describing the exclusion of white people as a vulgar and gross misrepresentation of the ANC’s historic position. This was a direct reference to Zuma’s call to the EFF and “black parties”, including the ANC, to unite to make up the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.

Mbeki pointed out the ANC had always represented black people and white people and, in any event, the expropriation of land without compensation was perfectly possible under the Constitution as it stands.

The Institute of Race Relations commissioned the first of a regular series of public opinion surveys.

Published a few days ago, the first survey shows that the ANC has fallen to 52% support, the EFF has grown to 13% and surprise, surprise, the DA has not only not fallen back - it has maintained its vote and grown marginally to 23%. Ten percent of black voters support the DA.

One of the most important findings of the survey was that the policy is rejected by most voters. .

Of 10 issues, the land issue is the least important in the estimation of voters, with only 6% thinking it is the major issue.

* Douglas Gibson is a former DA chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.