Monday , June 21 2021

Stellenbosch wine farm land grab shows that people are not waiting for reform

While the ANC promises to move forward with its plans for re-expropriation of land without compensation in the Constitution, party supporters are tired of waiting and taking matters into their own hands.

A new exhibition from New York Times noted how agricultural land in Stellenbosch is occupied by squatters who are tired of waiting around for the national government to fulfill their land promises.

Between March and August 2018, the land belonging to a wine-trader near Kaayamandy was occupied by the squatters and a new informal settlement was built.

According to the newspaper, while the courts ordered squatters to leave the country, the informal settlement remains. Those who led the indictment to occupy the country said it was desperate and frustrated with the slow pace of land reform.

The municipality is negotiating the purchase of land from the owner, Stephen Smith, and has allegedly already moved to supply water and toilets in that area.

Land grabs

The illegal land deals were previously entrenched and encouraged by the EFF in South Africa, with party leaders raising public anger.

A year ago, in March 2018, at least five areas across Gauteng have been subjected to looting by a country led by the EFF and his supporters.

The EFF's populist attitude to returning the country proved successful for the party, which showed that its base for support increased significantly during the elections and prompted the ANC to adopt a similar approach – pushing the party to change the South African constitution (with EFF support ).

While the ANC is fighting for the right to take land from owners without paying them, it still claims that the occupation of private land is illegal and will be filled with full force of the law.

President Kiril Ramaphosa has also stayed trying to balance two contradictory messages – that the South African government wants to take over the land, but also to protect property rights.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in early 2019, Ramaphosa said the government would not allow land redistribution laws to affect food security or the economy, nor would it allow the country to take place in the country.

However, as the Stellenbosch case demonstrates, no matter what the government says, people who are desperate for the country are not ready to wait.

"We see that country, we must take that land," one occupier told NYT.

Where are we land reform?

The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces endorsed in December a commission report that recommends that Article 25 of the Constitution, which protects property rights, needs to be amended.

On February 12th, another parliamentary committee was formed to draft the bill needed to make changes and to elect an ANC MP, Toko Didiza, who served as agriculture minister from 1999 to 2006 as its president.

The National Assembly, which is postponed from March 22 to the May 8th national elections, will debate on March 19th whether its committee should continue its work until the day before the vote, or whether the new parliament should revive the process.

Given that section 25 is part of the constitutional rights law, two-thirds of the MPs in the 400-member National Assembly and six of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces will have to approve the change.

Land reform and elections

All major political parties in South Africa are aware of the importance of land reform in South Africa and have made the country a fundamental topic in their campaigns. This is what ANC, EFF and DA say they will do to solve this problem:

  • ANC: The ANC is leading the land expropriation free of charge, and that the seizure of the land should be allowed to solve its own schemes of racial ejection. Food security and economic development will not be impaired by seizures on the country, the party says.
  • YES: YES wants the constitution to remain unchanged. The party says it will protect property rights while introducing a land reform program that increases access to property, creates jobs and boosts the economy.
  • EFF: The EFF wants the whole land to be placed under state guardianship and distributed fairly along demographically representative racial lines. Foreigners should be banned from owning land in South Africa, while rentals of all residential buildings should be abolished.
  • IFP: IFP supports the expropriation of land free of charge. She says she will separate unused state land to help the poor, with concrete support for modern agricultural initiatives. It also wants an education infrastructure for agriculture, including the introduction of agricultural science at school level.

Read: The new expropriation of countries in South Africa – here's the next

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