If we want change, how we talk about it can decide whether we achieve it. The storm that erupted when an internal Thabo Mbeki Foundation memo written by Mbeki was leaked to the media has subsided. This makes it a good time to look at an important argument in the memo that was drowned out by its tone. Much of the memo seems like an attempt to settle internal ANC scores. It reads like a protest against the ANC’s support for land expropriation without compensation, and so it seems to run against the tide of current thinking among black opinion-formers. But the tone is out of kilter with its arguments on land ownership. Former minister Pallo Jordan, a sharp critic of the memo, wrote that its tone distracted readers from some of its useful suggestions. ANC economic policy committee chair Enoch Godongwana agreed that it made helpful proposals. What did they mean? Contrary to most reaction, Mbeki says more than once in the memo that change in land ownership is needed and expropriation with...

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