'Land grab' storm brewing
As the debate around the decision intensified on Friday, some lobby group organisations and predominantly Afrikaner farm unions called for protest action against the government’s planned land restitution policy.
If they have their way, rolling mass protests could hit Pretoria and other parts of the country as early as Tuesday next week. They also plan to encourage foreign governments and investors to stop trading with South Africa.
Leading the charge is the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TAU-SA) executive director, Bennie van Zyl, who said his union has already organised a series of meetings on Monday after its executive committee meeting to enlist more organisations to join in their protest action.
He said the expropriation of land would not solve the issue of unemployment in the country, as “90% of farms transferred to black farmers by means of restitution went out of production”.
Van Zyl described Parliament’s decision as “theft” and “a fatal “economic act to take away private property”.
He said a conference of all civil society and agricultural unions would be held in Pretoria on Tuesday with the aim of stopping the expropriation of land.
However, Elizabeth Sidropoulos of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) said the debate was not about the implementation of land expropriation but about setting up a committee to look into the possibility of reviewing the constitution to allow the expropriation of land.
“It is not a done deal. There will be a process of consultation that will be held.
“So the best thing that those opposed to the idea should do is to engage during those processes of consultation.
“Their planned action is to put the cart before the horse,” Sidropoulos said.
She conceded that the planned action by civil society organisations could deter first-time investors in South Africa, saying they would “adopt a wait-and-see attitude”.
In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa described the dispossession of black land as the “original sin” that had to be redressed through expropriation without compensation. He said this would be done without damaging the economy, agricultural production or food security.
He reiterated this on Thursday when he addressed the House of Traditional Leaders, saying land expropriation would not be a “smash and grab” and that consultation would take place.
But Van Zyl was adamant that a decision to expropriate land had been made.
“It is a populist decision. The ANC took that decision because it was losing a number of its membership to the EFF,” he said.
These sentiments were echoed by British parliamentarian Janice Atkinson on Wednesday when she asked her country’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson, in a letter to intervene and stop the planned land expropriation in the country.
In her letter, Atkinson also claimed that the ANC was being influenced by the EFF under Julius Malema to take such a “radical decision”.
“For far too long, the hard Left of the ANC has been taking control, their policies shaped by the EFF because they are losing votes to the EFF’s rhetoric of hate, divisive racism and a promise to under-educated South Africans that all will be well if they just take the white people’s farms and businesses,” Atkinson wrote.
She said Britain had a duty to South Africa due to its cultural links and trade partnership.
Her comments were echoed by TAU-SA and AfriForum who have vowed to campaign internationally and to inform governments and foreign investors worldwide “that property rights in South Africa are being threatened and that foreign investment in South Africa will also not be safe should plans for property expropriation without compensation be followed through”.
AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel said the campaigns would be launched with memorandums that would be handed to various embassies and trading partners of South Africa.
Kriel said if the government did not heed their call, they would approach foreign investors, trade chambers and the World Economic Forum (WEF) directly to inform them that their investments were not safe in the country.
“Although this will be a drastic step, it will be a necessary last resort to prevent the South African government, through disregard of property rights, from destroying the country’s economy to the disadvantage of all in the country,” Kriel said.
Meanwhile, the PAC has warned Johnson to not even think of interfering in the internal affairs of South Africa.
PAC national spokesperson Kenneth Mokgatlhe said it is “now time that the former colonial master should register in their heads that we are no longer their colonies in Africa but sovereign states”.
“Britain is not some big brother. We know what we want and how to pursue such,” Mokgatlhe said.
He said Atkinson’s party, the United Kingdom Independent Party (Ukip), was a right-wing group which stood for nothing but white supremacy.
“They represent our opposites, as we stand for non-racialism and equitable redistribution of wealth in our country,” Mokgatlhe said.