The AgriSA audience represented the entire agricultural value chain, which included commercial farmers, producers, banks, risk managers and other stakeholders.
This engagement underscored the ANC’s commitment to constructive engagement with farmers and finding each other on matters of mutual interest.
As we walked into the room, the tension was palpable and the air pregnant with anticipation. We were the kids from the “other side of the railway line” venturing into a territory others felt we had no business in.
We were buoyed by our determination to advance our objective to build a nation-state that is truly united and citizenry that is South African first, before being black or white.
None in the room knew what to expect, as the run-up to the meeting was characterised by innuendo and rumour-mongering about the ANC’s position on expropriation of land without compensation.
An audience of 200 farmers from all corners of South Africa was not the usual audience ANC leaders were accustomed to, yet this response to its invitation spoke volumes.
As we navigate the challenging landscape of a nation in transition, we are guided by the policy dictates of the Freedom Charter, which proclaims that “The land shall be shared among those who work it”.
Ours remains a contested terrain and the promised land for those who bore the brunt of apartheid oppres- sion cannot remain a pipe dream.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his maiden State of the Nation Address, refers to the land question as the original sin, which must be confronted head-on if we are to reach our full potential as a nation.
The ANC is under no illusion about the importance of land as a catalyst to growing the economy, restoring the dignity of millions of South Africans and ensuring food security.
Land redistribution is not limited to farmland, but extends to urban areas to includes land for human settlement.
The uncertainty and anxiety expressed by the farmers is appreciated and the ANC is committed to dealing with the matter in a responsible manner that will give policy certainty, firmly within the ambit of the law.
The commitment by the farmers to be part of the solution in enabling land redistribution and empowering black farmers, including advancing broad-based black economic empowerment in the agricultural sector had not gone unnoticed by the ANC.
This is notwithstanding the farmers’ apprehension towards the policy proposal of expropriation of land without compensation. It remains our considered view that the ANC policy posture in this regard does not seek to alienate any race group, but rather seeks to achieve a progressive outcome that will place the country’s economy on a higher growth path.
The ANC has been emphatic that the proposal to effect amendments to the Constitution to clarify the circumstances under which the state may expropriate land without compensation will not erode property rights.
A false narrative that suggests otherwise has been peddled in our public discourse by those with nefarious motives who are desperately trying to sustain the apartheid legacy.
Others have no shame in standing on public platforms and spreading blatant lies about the ANC’s policy position on land redistribution, using scare tactics suggesting that people will lose their houses once expropriation of land without compensation is encoded into our laws.
There is no doubt that our policy proposals will ensure that the rights of all South Africans to land, and not just those who currently own land, will be strengthened.
The proposed amendments will provide clarity and certainty on how land reform will be effected, and as such, there is no reason such amendments should cause alarm, be it on the part of a farmer or that of an investor.
Through the parliamentary process and the ANC’s own stakeholder engagements, we have listened intently to the constructive contributions and taken note of the concerns and challenges raised by the citizens at large.
We have similarly taken note of solutions suggested and have undertaken to look closely at these.
The ANC has committed to the broader land redistribution and agrarian reform being anchored in sustainable interventions that are informed by the lessons of the last 24 years.
This model is underpinned by the appreciation that the rule of law is sacrosanct, and this process will unfold in an orderly manner and no land grabs will be tolerated.
It must be appreciated that our commitment to ensuring thriving agrobusinesses that benefit all citizens and empower black farmers, is central to the country’s land redistribution programme.
We will work with the farming community and all other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain to maximise the value that the sector adds to the economy.
We are under no illusion that we have found each other on many issues with various stakeholders in the sector, including farmers of all races.
Critical factors that affect farmers require joint action and our resolve to finding lasting solutions has never been greater.
Issues ranging from crime to public sector financial support for commercial development and access to bulk infrastructure to market access for farmers through trade agreements, are topmost among the concerns raised by the farmers, and we remain focussed on these matters.
It is no fallacy that those who have a genuine interest in working with us for mutually beneficial outcomes have understood our vision on land redistribution and have expressed appreciation on the need to move decisively in addressing this challenge.
Foreign leaders have stood next to President Ramaphosa and expressed support for our policy direction. A landless people is a lost nation that has no prospects of lifting itself out of the quagmire of poverty.
Mbalula is the ANC’s head of elections and a member of its national executive committee.