Land, the constitution and property rights in South Africa


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Land, the constitution and property rights in South Africa

  1. 1. 1        SPEECH  BY  DAVE  STEWARD,  EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR  OF  THE  FW  DE  KLERK  FOUNDATION  TO  THE  CONFERENCE  ON  LAND  OWNERSHIP  IN  SOUTH  AFRICA  HAKUNAMATATA,  GAUTENG,    31  MAY  2013    LAND,  THE  CONSTITUTION  AND  PROPERTY  RIGHTS  Perhaps   one   of   the   most   unpalatable   truths   of   our   time   is   that   our   government   has  embarked   on   a   comprehensive   and   conscious   campaign   to   harm   the   interests   of   South  African  citizens  on  the  basis  of  their  race.    A  central  element  of  this  campaign  is  the  elimination  of  what  the  ANC  calls  "the  legacy  of  apartheid  super-­‐exploitation  and  inequality,  and  the  redistribution  of  wealth  and  income  to  benefit   society   as   a   whole,   especially   the   poor".   In   effect,   the   government   is   planning   a  multi-­‐pronged  assault  on  the  property  rights  of  white  South  African  citizens  on  the  basis  of  their  race.  The  assault  includes  the  following  elements:  • The  proposals  in  the  2011  Green  Paper  on  Land  Reform;  • The  implications  for  farmers  of  the  Land  Tenure  Security  Bill,  2010;  • Proposals  at  the  2012  ANC  Policy  Conference  that  the  government  should  be  able  to  use  the  assets  of  insurance  and  pension  funds  for  state  developmental  projects;  • The   Restitution   of   Land   Rights   Amendment   Bill   which   will   set   a   new   cut-­‐off   date   for  restitution  claims  and  that  will  make  it  possible  to  submit  claims  for  the  dispossession  of  land  before  1913;    • Tokyo   Sexwale’s   announcement   last   week   regarding   the   "deracialisation   of   white  suburbs";  and  • The   draft   Expropriation   Bill   which   has   recently   been   released   for   comment   by   the  Department  of  Public  Works.    THE  GREEN  PAPER  ON  LAND  REFORM  The  Green  Paper  advocates  a  process  of  Agrarian  Transformation  -­‐  which  it  describes  as      "a  rapid  and  fundamental  change  in  …systems  and  patterns  of  ownership  and  control…  of  land,  livestock,  cropping  and  community".        It  proposes  fundamental  changes  to  traditional  forms  of  land  ownership  in  terms  of  which  there  would  be  four  categories  of  land  tenure:    • state  and  public  land  that  would  be  subject  to  leasehold;      • privately  owned  land  -­‐  that  would  be  freehold  but  with  limited  extent;    • foreigners  would  not  be  allowed  to  own  freehold  land  at  all;  and    • communal  land  with  communal  tenure  and  institutionalised  use  rights.        
  2. 2. 2    The  idea  of  freehold  "with  limited  extent"  is  vague  and  would  be  difficult  to  implement.  Any  limitation  of  existing  freehold  rights  would  have  to  be  compensated  by  the  government  in  terms  of    section  25  of  the  Constitution.      THE  LAND  TENURE  SECURITY  BILL,  2010  The   new   system   would   go   hand   in   hand   with   the   implementation   of   the   Land   Tenure  Security   Bill,   2010.   According   to   AgriSA,   the   Bill   would   give   farm   dwellers   and   their  dependents  unlimited  and  comprehensive  rights  in  respect  of  stock-­‐farming  and  cropping,  services,  training  housing  and  roads  -­‐  and  would  create  unlimited  obligations  for  farmers.    PENSION  AND  INSURANCE  FUNDS  The  proposal  that  the  government  should  be  able  to  use  the  assets  of  insurance  and  pension  funds  for  state  developmental  projects  could  seriously  erode  the  retirement  and  insurance  investments  of  ordinary  citizens.    DERACIALISING  WHITE  SUBURBS  Minister  Sexwale’s  plan  to  "deracialise  white  suburbs"  might  erode  the  value  of  the  most  important  asset  that  most  South  Africans  own  -­‐  their  homes.      No  reasonable  person  would  object  to  proposals  for  better  human  settlements  -­‐  including  the   development   of   inner   city   housing   schemes   to   bring   people   closer   to   their   jobs;   the  development  of  new  non-­‐racial  communities  and  the  upgrading  of  existing  townships.    However,   the   proposal   to   "deracialise   white   suburbs"   is   perplexing,   disturbing   and  unnecessary.  This  would  be  achieved  by  "obliging"  banks  "to  provide  loans  to  black  people  to   purchase   property   in   previously   exclusive   white   suburbs".   There   are   no   longer   any  "exclusively  white  suburbs".  Mr  Sexwale  and  most  of  his  colleagues  in  the  black  elite  know  this  very  well  -­‐  because  that  is  where  they  live.  People  -­‐  whatever  their  race  -­‐  can  buy  homes  anywhere  they  like  provided  they  can  pay  the  prevailing  market  price.    Middle   class   black,   Indian   and   coloured   families   have   been   moving   into   former   "white"  suburbs  all  over  the  country  with  very  little  trouble  or  opposition.  The  city  centre  areas  of  several  of  our  major  cities  have  been  taken  over  by  black  South  Africans  without  the  passage  of  any  laws.  All  over  the  country  vibrant  multi-­‐cultural  neighbourhoods  are  developing  on  the  basis  of  free  choice.    We  do  not  need  a  new  bout  of  racial  engineering  that  would  subvert  this  entirely  natural  process.  We  should  also  accept  and  respect  the  tendency  for  cultural  groups  to  live  together  in  communities  -­‐  if  they  so  wish  -­‐    just  as  they  do  throughout  the  world  -­‐  provided  that  they  do  not  exclude  anyone  on  the  basis  of  race.      RESTITUTION  BEFORE  1913  The   ANC   has   now   announced   its   intention   of   creating   a   new   cut-­‐off   date   for   restitution  claims  -­‐  and  to  pushing  back  the  date  before  1913  from  restitution  claims  by  descendants  of  the  San  people.  It  should  be  remembered  that  a  large  majority  of  restitution  claimants  have  settled  for  cash  rather  than  the  return  of  their  land.  Also,  tampering  with  the  1913  threshold  date  would  require  a  constitutional  amendment.        
  3. 3. 3      THE  EXPROPRIATION  BILL  The  keystone  to  the  ANC’s  new  approach  to  property  is  the  draft  Expropriation  Bill  which  was  recently  released  for  comment  by  the  Department  of  Public  Works.  The  Bill  contains  a  number  of  threats  to  bona  fide  property  rights  -­‐  even  though  it  no  longer  tries  to  circumvent  the  requirement  that  compensation  must  be  decided  or  approved  by  a  court  -­‐  as  its  2008  predecessor  did.        Although   in   line   with   section   25   of   the   Constitution,   the   inclusion   of   "public   interest"   as  grounds  for  expropriation  -­‐  without  clearly  defining  its  meaning  -­‐  could  result  in  a  dilution  of  property  rights  when  left  to  subjective  interpretation  by  expropriating  authorities.        The  Bills  definition  of  "public  interest"  incorporates  the  Constitution’s  formulation  that  the  "public  interest  includes  the  nation’s  commitment  to  land  reform,  and  reforms  to  bring  about  equitable  access  to  all  South  Africa’s  natural  resources".      However,  it  then  adds  the  words  “and  other  related  reforms  in  order  to  redress  the  results  of  past  racial  discriminatory  laws  or  practices".  This  could  conceivably  be  used  to  justify  the  expropriation   of   virtually   any   property   owned   by   white   South   Africans   which   might   be  obliquely  linked  in  some  way  or  the  other  to  "past  racial  discriminatory  laws  and  practices."      Another   problem   arises   from   the   fact   that   possession   of   expropriated   property   can   take  place   before   the   payment   of   compensation.   In   addition,   compensation   becomes   payable  only   when   the   amount   has   been   agreed   by   the   state   or   decided   by   the   courts.   Should  expropriated  property  owners  decide  to  challenge  the  proposed  compensation,  they  could  find  themselves  deprived  of  their  property  and  any  income  that  it  might  produce  pending  the  court’s  decision.  Since  this  process  might  take  years  to  complete,  expropriated  property  owners  would  be  under  considerable  pressure  to  accept  whatever  offer  the  expropriating  authority  might  choose  to  make.      Finally,   the   definition   of   property   is   so   vague   that   it   could   result   in   the   expropriation   of  virtually  any  type  of  property,  including  land,  moveable  and  immovable  property,  shares  and  mining  rights.  The  Bill  also  extends  far-­‐reaching  powers  to  initiate  expropriation  not  only  to  the   national   government   but   to   provincial   governments,   municipalities   and   to   numerous  other  organs  of  state.    In  considering  a  more  precise  definition  of  the  "public  interest"  the  drafters  of  the  Bill  would  do   well   to   note   that   experience   throughout   the   world   and   throughout   history   has  incontrovertibly   shown   that   secure   property   rights   are   essential   for   economic   stability,  growth  and  well-­‐being  of  any  society.  They  are  indisputably  a  core  element  of  any  objective  assessment  of  the  “public  interest”.      THE  NATIONAL  DEMOCRATIC  REVOLUTION  What  then  is  the  origin  of  this  multi-­‐pronged  attack  on  white  property  rights?  Why  has  the  ANC  embarked  on  a  course  of  action  that  -­‐  to  an  objective  observer  -­‐  would  appear  to  be  so  destructive  of  national  unity  and  that  would  have  such  catastrophic  consequences  for  the  economy?    
  4. 4. 4    The  answer  lies  in  the  National  Democratic  Revolution  (NDR)  -­‐  which  is  the  guiding  ideology  of  the  ruling  alliance.    The   NDR’s   primary   goal   is   "the   resolution   of   the   antagonistic   contradictions   between   the  oppressed  majority  (blacks)  and  their  oppressors  (whites);  as  well  as  the  resolution  of  the  national  grievance  arising  from  the  colonial  relations".  The   ANC’s   view   of   the   1994   settlement   differs   profoundly   from   that   of   its   negotiating  partners.  For  non-­‐ANC  parties  1994  was  the  culmination  of  the  process:  for  the  ANC  it  was  simply   an   important   milestone   on   the   route   toward   the   achievement   of   its   National  Democratic  Revolution.  As  the  ANC  puts  it:    "…The  notion  that  South  Africans  embraced  and  made  up  (after  the  1994  settlement),  and  thus  erased  the  root  causes  of  previous  conflict,  is  thoroughly  misleading.  April  1994  was  neither  the  beginning  nor  the  end  of  history.  The  essential  contradictions  spawned  by  the  system  of  apartheid  colonialism  were  as  much  prevalent  the  day  after  the  inauguration  of  the  new  government  as  they  were  the  day  before."    According  to  the  ANC’s  Strategy  and  Tactics  documents,    "a  critical  element  of  the  programme  for  national  emancipation  should  be  the  elimination  of  apartheid  property  relations.  This  requires:  the  de-­‐racialisation  of  ownership  and  control  of  wealth,  including  land;  equity  and  affirmative  action  in  the  provision  of  skills  and  access  to  positions   of   management...   It   requires   the   elimination   of   the   legacy   of   apartheid   super-­‐exploitation  and  inequality,  and  the  redistribution  of  wealth  and  income  to  benefit  society  as  a  whole,  especially  the  poor."  According  to  the  ANC’s  2007  Strategy  and  Tactics  document,  this  is  still  very  much  a  work  in  progress.    "The  progress  made  since  the  attainment  of  democracy  is  such  that  we  are  still  some  way  from   the   ideal   society   of   national   democracy.   The   ownership   and   control   of   wealth   and  income,  the  poverty  trap,  access  to  opportunity  and  so  on  -­‐  are  all  in  the  main  defined,  as  under  apartheid,  on  the  basis  of  race  and  gender."    Accordingly,  "the  central  task  in  the  current  period  is  the  eradication  of  the  socio-­‐economic  legacy  of  apartheid;  and  this  will  remain  so  for  many  years  to  come."  In  the  ANC’s  view  this  is  a  continuing  struggle  "which,  as  a  matter  of  historical  necessity,  will  loom  ever  larger  as  we  proceed  along  the  path  of  fundamental  change".    THE  SECOND  PHASE  In  March  last  year,  the  ANC  announced  that  the  time  had  at  last  arrived  for  it  to  proceed  more  vigorously  with  its  efforts  to  eradicate  the  socio-­‐economic  legacy  of  apartheid.  Minister   Jeff   Radebe,   the   ANC’s   Policy   Chief,   proclaimed   that   "having   concluded   our   first  transition  with  its  focus  in  the  main,  on  political  democratization,  we  need  a  vision  that  must  focus  on  the  social  and  economic  transformation  of  SA  over  the  next  30  to  50  years".    According  to  Radebe,  South  Africa  needed  a  second  transition  for  the  following  reasons:  
  5. 5. 5    "Firstly,  our  first  transition  embodied  a  framework  and  a  national  consensus  that  may  have  been  appropriate  for  political  emancipation,  a  political  transition,  but  has  proven  inadequate  and  inappropriate  for  our  social  and  economic  transformation  phase".  "Secondly,  the  balance  of  forces  at  the  time  of  our  transition  ruled  out  some  options  and  weighted  choices  towards  others.  Thus  the  negotiated  nature  of  the  transition  meant  that  capital  reform  would  necessarily  be  an  incremental,  market  focused  process,  engaging  with  the  current  owners  of  capital."    THE  ANC’S  2012  POLICY  CONFERENCE  Radebe’s  views  were  subsequently  endorsed  by  the  ANC’s  National  Policy  Conference  at  the  end  of  June  2012.        In  his  opening  address  to  the  conference  President  Zuma  said  that  the  ANC  intended  "to  democratise   and   de-­‐racialise   the   ownership   and   control   of   the   economy   by   empowering  Africans   and   the   working   class   in   particular   to   play   a   leading   role".   He   said   that   the  government   could   not   take   such   measures   in   1994   because   it   needed   "to   make   certain  compromises   in   the   national   interest   …we   had   to   be   cautious   about   restructuring   the  economy,  in  order  to  maintain  economic  stability  and  confidence  at  the  time".      Although  the  Policy  Conference  preferred  the  term  "Second  Phase"  to  "Second  Transition"  it  reached  broad  agreement  that    "we   are   in   a   continuing   transition   from   Apartheid   colonialism   to   a   National   Democratic  Society.  The  interventions  required  to  speed  up  change,  especially  with  regard  to  economic  transformation,  can  be  understood  as  marking  a  new  phase  in  the  transition  to  a  National  Democratic   Society.   This   second   phase   of   the   transition   should   be   characterised   by   more  radical  policies  and  decisive  action  to  effect  thorough-­‐going  socio-­‐economic  and  continued  democratic  transformation,  as  well  as  the  renewal  of  the  ANC,  the  Alliance  and  the  broad  democratic  forces".      MANGAUNG  The  ANC’s  National  Conference  at  Mangaung  in  December  last  year  endorsed  the  central  elements  of  the  "Second  Phase"  approach:    "We   engaged   in   vigorous   and   searching   debates   on   the   persistence   of   the   legacy   of  apartheid   colonialism,   reflected   in   the   triple   challenges   of   poverty,   inequality   and  unemployment.  Responding  to  these  challenges,  we  are  boldly  entering  the  second  phase  of  the  transition  from  apartheid  colonialism  to  a  national  democratic  society.  This  phase  will  be  characterised   by   decisive   action   to   effect   economic   transformation   and   democratic  consolidation,  critical  both  to  improve  the  quality  of  life  of  all  South  Africans  and  to  promote  nation-­‐building  and  social  cohesion".    The  Mangaung  Conference  also  endorsed  the  Land  Reform  proposals  in  the  Green  Paper  and  called  for  the  early  adoption  of  a  new  Expropriation  Act.    CONCLUSION  There  can  accordingly  be  very  little  doubt  about  the  seriousness  of  the  ANC’s  commitment  to   the   redistribution   of   white-­‐owned   land   and   property.   It   will   proceed   as   quickly   as   the  
  6. 6. 6    objective  circumstances  and  developing  balance  of  power  will  permit.  In  considering  all  of  this  we  should  bear  the  following  points  in  mind:    • Not  all  elements  in  the  ANC  support  the  radical  implementation  of  the  NDR;  • It   is   being   driven   primarliy   by   the   SACP   which   believes   that   the   NDR   is   an   essential  staging  post  on  its  route  to  the  establishment  of  a  communist  state;  and  • The  second  phase  implementation  of  the  NDR  is  entirely  irreconcilable  with  the  National  Development  Plan  that  the  ANC  also  supports.    PROPAGANDA  FOR  THE  SECOND  PHASE  The   ANC   is   preparing   the   ground   for   the   Second   Phase   by   concentrating   on   three   basic  arguments:    THE  LEGACY  OF  THE  PAST  The  first  arises  from  its  version  of  South  African  history  in  terms  of  which  everything  that  happened  before  1994  was  irredeemably  evil.  The  Government  is  ramping  up  its  rhetoric.        In  a  relatively  short  address  to  parliament  earlier  this  year  Jeff  Radebe  referred  no  fewer  than  seven  times  to  the  depredations  of  the  past  -­‐    • to  "apartheid  colonialism";    • to  "the  struggle  against  colonialism  and  apartheid";    • to  "the  forces  of  colonialism  and  later  of  apartheid,  on  the  one  side,  arrayed  …against  the  forces  of  freedom  and  democracy  on  the  other  side";    • to  "…  the  heroic  stance  by  the  United  Nations  when  It  declared  apartheid  a  crime  against  humanity  and  a  threat  to  world  peace";    • to  "…the  untold  suffering,  strife  and  racial  hatred  sowed  by  apartheid…";    and    • to   "…the   poverty   trap   and   vicious   cycle   of   inequality   perpetrated   by   the   legacy   of  apartheid  and  colonialism…"      Increasing   use   is   made   of   the   term   "apartheid   colonialism"   -­‐   implying   that   whites   are  transient  alien  interlopers.  For  example,  the  Green  Paper  on  Land  Reform  proclaims  that  "all  anti-­‐colonial   struggles   are   at   the   core   about   two   things,   repossession   of   lost   land   and  restoring  the  centrality  of  indigenous  culture."      Such  references  pepper  most  policy  statements  made  by  the  ANC.  Whatever  their  historic  merit  -­‐  or  lack  of  merit  -­‐  it  would  be  surprising  if  they  do  not  stir  up  some  degree  of  racial  animosity  -­‐  or  at  the  very  least  -­‐  reinforce  perceptions  of  white  moral  inferiority  and  black  entitlement.  Inevitably  they  fuel  demands  for  restitution  -­‐  particularly  of  land  -­‐  which  most  black  South  Africans  firmly  believe  was  stolen  from  their  ancestors.        Special  accent  is  being  placed  on  mobilising  public  opinion  to  support  radical  land  reform  on    and  around  the  100th  anniversary  of  the  1913  Land  Act.    NOTHING  HAS  CHANGED  The  second  leitmotif  is  the  notion  that  economically  and  socially  nothing  has  changed.    
  7. 7. 7    • When  he  opened  the  2012  Policy  Conference  President  Zuma  said  that  "the  economic  power  relations  of  the  apartheid  era  have  in  the  main  remained  intact.  The  ownership  of  the  economy  is  still  primarily  in  the  hands  of  white  males  as  it  has  always  been."  • The  Policy  Conferrence  concluded  that  "…the  structural  legacy  of  Colonialism  of  Special  Type,  including  patriarchy,  remains  deeply  entrenched  as  reflected  in  the  colonial,  racist  and  sexist  structure  and  character  of  our  economy;  the  spatial  and  gender  patterns  of  development  and  underdevelopmentand  with  regards  to  the  social,  human  resources  and  infrastructure  backlogs."  • On   2   October   2012   Minister   Rob   Davies   said   that   "We   cannot   expect   to   grow   and  develop  as  a  country  if  the  leadership  of  the  economy  is  still  in  the  hands  of  only  a  small  minority  of  the  society."  However,  it  is  untrue  that  the  leadership  of  the  economy  is  still  solely  in  the  hands  of  whites.    There  have  been  significant  shifts  in  the  racial  distribution  of  wealth  and  income  since  1994.  -­‐   mostly   in   favour   of   the   new   black   middle   class.   Black   South   Africans   control   economic,  labour  and  fiscal  policy  as  well  as  the  30%  of  economy  that  is  controlled  by  the  state.  More  than  60%  of  the  top  decile  of  income  earners  are  now  black.    THE  LEGACY  OF  THE  PAST  IS  RESPONSIBLE  FOR  THE  PROBLEMS  OF  THE  PRESENT  The  third  theme  is  the  ANC’s  insistence  that  most  of  the  country’s  current  problems  -­‐  and  especially  the  triple  crisis  of  inequality,  poverty  and  unemployment    -­‐  may  be  ascribed  to  the  legacy  of  the  past.    • The  2012  Policy  Conference  claimed  that  the  "historical  and  primary  contradictions  …  which   were   inherent   to   Colonialism   of   a   Special   Kind"   were   the   cause   of   "the   triple  challenges  of  unemployment,  poverty  and  inequality."  • According  to  President  Zuma’s  8  January  statement  this  year  "Monopoly  domination  of  the   economy"   (whatever   that   means)   and   the   "skewed   patterns   of   ownership   and  production"   are   responsible   for   the   "inequality,   dualism   and   marginalization"   that  characterise  the  economy.      • Recently   Minister   Angie   Motshekga   claimed   that   all   black   education   before   1994   was  intended  only  to  produce  "labourers"  -­‐  despite  the  fact  that  she  herself  (and  many  of  her  colleagues)  were  graduates  of  Turfloop  University.  Also,  by  1994  there  were  more  black  students  registered  at  university  than  whites.      RESPONSES  The  question  -­‐  as  always  -­‐  is  what  is  to  be  done?    I  would  suggest  the  following  responses:    • White   South   Africans   should   wake   up   to   the   unpleasant   fact   that   they   are   the   main  target   of   the   NDR.   Their   government   has   launched   a   multi-­‐faceted   campaign   to  undermine  their  legitimate  interests  and  rights  on  the  basis  of  their  race.  They  are  like  the  proverbial  frogs  in  the  pot:  the  water  is  simmering  and  the  ANC  is  turning  up  the  heat.  
  8. 8. 8    • We   should   dispel   any   remaining   illusions   that   we   might   have   regarding   the   ANC’s  intentions.  They  are  there  for  all  to  see.  In  particular,  we  should  not  allow  ourselves  to  be  placated  by  what  the  ANC  regards  as  "dexterity  of  tact".  • We  should  firmly  reject  racist  policies  from  any  quarter.  We  should  reject  the  notion  that  we   are   morally   second-­‐class   citizens   -­‐   or   that   some   South   Africans   are   "central"   and  others  peripheral.  • We  should  work  for  a  more  balanced  understanding  of  our  history  -­‐  and  we  should,  in  particular  -­‐  reject  the  ANC’s  hopelessly  skewed  version  of  the  past.  We  need  to  put  the  record  straight  regarding  the  history  of  land  ownership.      • We  should  work  for  a  more  balanced  and  accurate  understanding  of  the  present  -­‐  and  particularly   of   the   constructive   -­‐   and   indeed,   indispensible   role   -­‐   that   much   maligned  whites  play  in  the  economy  and  in  society.  • We  should  engage  the  ANC  on  the  battlefield  of  ideas  -­‐  where  we  should  point  to  the  catastrophic  implications  of  the  second  phase  course  upon  which  it  has  embarked.  • We  should  seek  to  engage  the  ANC  leadership  at  the  highest  possible  level  in  very  frank  debate  about  these  issues.  The  really  scary  possibility  is  that  the  ANC  actually  believes  its  own  propaganda.  • Above  all  we  should  defend  the  Constitution,  the  values  that  it  espouses  and  the  rights  it  protects  -­‐  from  forces  that  are  increasingly  attempting  to  erode  it.  We  should  reject  any  suggestion  that  it  was  just  a  temporary  accommodation  that  can  be  dispensed  with  at  the  whim  of  the  government  of  the  day.  We  should  remind  the  ANC  that  South  Africa  belongs  to  all  its  people,  united  in  our  diversity.  We   should   stress   that   South   Africa   has   been   founded   -­‐   among   others   -­‐   on   the   values   of  human  dignity,  equality  and  non-­‐racialism.  We  should  also  draw  the  ANC’s  attention  to  the  core  right  that  the  State  may  not  unfairly  discriminate  directly  or  indirectly  against  anyone  on  one  or  more  grounds  -­‐  including  race.