LETTER: Land debate is a proxy
The scientific approach suggested by former president Thabo Mbeki for resolving the land question lacks sophistication. The current land debate is a proxy — the real problem is the racial composition of the economy.
In 1994, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) championed the land question, made it its election manifesto and coined the slogan “land first all shall follow”.
This proved to be unpopular among the electorate, and the PAC got a hiding in the polls. While there may be other contributing factors, it is difficult not to consider its dismal failure to mobilise black South Africans around the land question and is an indication that there was no appetite for land among the black population.
The way the issue was brought into the public discourse by the EFF was significant. Unlike the PAC, the EFF located it at the centre of the economic emancipation of black people. Therefore land expropriation without compensation was made to strengthen the radical posture of the EFF and to outmanoeuvre the ANC.
The ANC resolved to expropriate land without compensation at its national conference last December, and now the economy is paying the price. If security of tenure is broken, so will confidence in the South African economy.
It is not too late to stem the economic slide. The government needs to use available constitutional levers to accelerate land restitution. The white population needs to realise that the status quo is unsustainable.
Transformation of the economy is a prerequisite to secure a future for all. Unless this happens, the “Ngoku” brigade — the group in the ANC national executive committee that wanted Mbeki to leave office in 2008 — will continue to whip up racial tensions. Members of the brigade are now spread over different political parties, but the bond that binds them together is recklessness.