South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has adopted a new land reform policy to accelerate redistribution and restitution of land across the country. The policy which aimed to increase black ownership of land in South Africa has triggered a backlash from Western far right.
According to the Conversation, the land law at the center of the storm between South Africa and far right party in the West, “is based on three main pillars: restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. Restitution involves people claiming back land taken away from them after June 1913, or compensation for their loss. Land redistribution involves acquiring and transferring land from white farmers to black farmers, for a variety of purposes, including farming and settlement”.
Critics have bashed the ANC for failing to hasten land redistribution and restitution since Mandela took power. The A.N.C’s centrist willing buyer willing seller approach which enjoyed the support of wealthy land owners and the west, failed miserably in addressing the plight of the majority black poor landless South Africans since 1996-when it was adopted into law.
As Ben Cousin, research chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian studies at the University of Western Cape put it, “in over two decades over 8 to 9% of land had been transferred by restitution and redistribution,… overall, land reform has failed miserably”.
This failure has costed the ANC at the polls. By 2016, it was beginning to lose popularity in some of its urban strong holds like Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane which includes the capital Pretoria recording 53.6% of the general votes in the 2016 general election. The first time it ever recorded anything below 60%, according to the Washington Post August 12th issue.
The A.N.C badly needed to redress its stance on the land reform issue to woo black voters. Two options presented themselves, either buy the radical far left approach (Land seizure without compensation, and thrill the poor black majority) or retain the centrist approach of retribution and restitution, and please the wealthy white land owners and the West.
In December of 2017 the South African reported that ““Land redistribution without compensation” gets the ANC green light”. According to the new party policy, Mandela’s party was going to accept the far left sponsored land seizure without compensation bill and having their majority in parliament pass it.
But the policy has angered white supremacist and far rights in the West. U.S president Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday the 23rd : “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews’’.
In March this year, Australian Home Affairs Minister, far right conservative, Peter Dutton said white South African farmers “deserved ‘special attention’ from a ‘civilised country’ like Australia on humanitarian grounds”. The Guardian noted that “Dutton’s comments followed reporting and opinion writing in News Corp newspapers that white farmers in South Africa were being targeted, and was backed by Tony Abbott”.
In 1994, as a result of colonial dispossession and apartheid, 87% of the land was owned by whites and only 13% by blacks. By 2012 post-apartheid land reform had transferred 7.95 million hectares into black ownership , which is equivalent, at best, to 7.5% of formerly white-owned land. Whites as a social category still own most of the country’s land and redressing racial imbalances in land ownership is land reform’s most urgent priority.
The far left versus far right quarrel indicates a new low in the already marred South Africa-United States relations. Prior to this event, President Ramaphosa publicly opposed the withdrawal of the U.S from the Iran nuclear deal, forging on to create stronger ties with Iran which collides with U.S sanctions imposed there, as reported by John Campbell’s May 22nd blog post.
John Stremlau an American academic in South Africa’s prestigious Witwatersrand University believes that U.S -S.A bilateral relationship is bad and is likely to deteriorate. This far left far right duel spells more danger for the U.S S.A bilateral relations.
But not all far left in South Africa are worried. South Africa’s far left architect, Julius Selo Malema has warned his supporters in a press conference held in Bloemfontein in March “be ready for the worse, be ready for the E.U, be ready for America, be ready…”