DA leader Mmusi Maimane in Eldorado Park, Johannesburg on Reconciliation Day. Picture: DA Twitter

Johannesburg - South Africa's political landscape is full of fake revolutionaries who merely pretend to care about poverty and disempowerment, but they are dishonest politicians who exploit the real frustrations and hardships of people for their own power and wealth, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Sunday.

Addressing a Reconciliation Day event in Eldorado Park in Johannesburg, he said Reconciliation Day was a day for South Africans to celebrate their unity as a nation.

"We remember our history, and we reflect on the path we have already travelled towards a more just society. But we must ask ourselves today: How quickly are we reconciling as a nation, and are we even still moving in the right direction? Because at times it feels like we are drifting further apart from each other," he said.

"We must find better ways of listening to and hearing each other. True reconciliation is only possible through proper dialogue, and this is crucial if we want to work together to fix our country."

There were many South Africans who were committed to building an inclusive and unified society. But not everyone was working towards this goal, and "these are the people we must watch out for".

"Our political landscape is full of fake revolutionaries who merely pretend to care about poverty and disempowerment. Dishonest politicians who exploit the real frustrations and hardships of people for their own power and wealth," Maimane said.

"They create the illusion that they stand on the side of the poor. Some of them will even go as far as wearing the overalls of the working class or the uniforms of domestic workers as part of this illusion, but these are just props and costumes for their act."

Both the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters fell into this category. There was a word for such people. "We call them populists, and they prey on vulnerable people’s desperation. They make promises that sound too good to be true because they are too good to be true. They have no intention of ever fulfilling these promises. They will say whatever they think people want to hear in order to get their votes. They will use language and names that sound progressive while robbing their own people blind," he said.

"They speak of radical economic transformation, while they really mean radical wealth accumulation. They speak of black economic empowerment, while they really mean ANC crony enrichment. And they speak of land reform and land restitution, while they really mean state control and ownership of all land, including the land owned by poor South Africans."

Land was a very important and emotive issue in South Africa, and rightly so. For centuries, the majority of the people were denied the right to not only live where they wanted to live, but to own their own land, and to pass this land on to their children. Justice and redress demanded that this be corrected  and that it be done quickly.

When done right, this was something that would build a stronger, united South Africa. A South Africa where more people had access to the economy and where more people could build their own wealth, Maimane said.

"But in the hands of the populists, it simply becomes a tool for dividing people and whipping up anger. When both the EFF and ANC talk about land reform, their only goal is to create a divide – an enemy – and then exploit the issue for votes.

"They don’t want South Africans to own their own land. They don’t want you to be able to grow an investment, access capital, or pass this on to your children. They want you to live at the mercy of the state – forever a tenant. There is only one party in South Africa that has been fighting for real, sustainable land reform, and that party is the DA," he said.

"Forget about the slogans for a moment and consider the facts. Since 2009 the DA has handed over more than 100 000 title deeds in the Western Cape alone. That’s over a hundred thousand Western Cape families that now own their property.

"In the past four years, the Western Cape’s DA government has supported 357 land reform projects. The province boasts an agricultural land reform success rate of over 60 percent, while elsewhere in South Africa only 10 percent of these projects succeed. That’s what I mean when I say sustainable land reform.

"And the DA has done all of this within the framework of the Constitution. It was never necessary to break our Constitution – that was all just part of the ANC and EFF’s populist campaign.

"That is why I say: Beware of those who use land as a rallying cry and who want to amend our Constitution. They’re not doing this to make any of you property owners. They are doing so to take control of all South Africans’ property, whether black or white, rich or poor," Maimane said.

African News Agency (ANA)