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Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma. Picture: MLONDOLOZI MBOLO
Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma. Picture: MLONDOLOZI MBOLO

It is widely held that the 2024 election will be of crucial importance, with no clear predictions on the outcome. What is clear is that with both the EFF and the MK parties’ platforms being based on the expropriation of all land by the state, and the ANC tilting in the same direction, this election will reveal how powerful the promise of returning the land to its “rightful owners” is.

It cannot be denied that this call should resonate with the millions of black people who live in poverty. Amplifying this resonance is the fact that most of those not living in poverty but enjoying property and security are a distinct and small minority — whites. Sealing the promise are two ideas: whites are not African and SA’s land belongs to black South Africans.

The manifesto of the MK party frames the latter idea as one of “our birthright reclaiming”. Fundamental to this view is that the land should belong to the people who were here originally, not those who came from beyond the shores of SA. 

Neither the MK nor the EFF say whites do not belong here; their contention is that those whites who have settled here are “land thieves” who used their superior power to dispossess black people. 

To remedy this land theft, all land must be owned by the state and all private sector companies nationalised and present agreements with the state be scrapped. The state will take control of every part of the economy so the people of SA, black and white, benefit from the regulations and programmes it introduces.

With the premise that “poverty, inequality and unemployment stem... from the theft of land and minerals”, the MK believes the state owning all the means of production will eradicate those three evils.

To back its ideas MK references land reform measures taken by South Korea and Japan, among other countries. With the obvious wealth that both of these nations now enjoy, it would seem that such land redistribution must work. 

However, there is no mention that after both the second world war and the Korean War the US gave enormous and ongoing amounts of financial aid to these countries, both of which also had a strong educational footing.

Nor is it mentioned that in the case of South Korea, huge companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai were instrumental in creating prosperity within the nation and were family-founded, managed and owned. 

The MK and EFF would nationalise all businesses. Policies such as those advocated by those parties would not attract Western investment (not wanted, apparently), but whether countries sympathetic to this new government would have either the means or the will to come to our aid is doubtful given the track record of liberation governments.

The blind spot of MK can be seen clearly in its manifesto where it deals with immigration, which would be far more controlled and restricted. It states that “disparities in the [Southern African Development Community]-led to involuntary migration, spurred by economic hardships”.

What “spurred” this migration (more than 1-million Zimbabweans in this country) were the measures instigated by then president Robert Mugabe, land redistribution of farms confiscated from their owners, and the nationalisation of businesses.

MK does not see this, and wants to do exactly the same. Yes, migration was “involuntary”, but it was caused by wilful, voluntary choices by Mugabe.

In Venezuela, where similar measures were introduced by president Hugo Chavez, an even greater number of citizens have fled the country.

If May 29 brings parties such as MK and the EFF within striking distance of controlling SA, the poverty, inequality and unemployment evident now will be dwarfed by bigger brothers of the same description.

Roger Graham

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