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Aug 2, 2018 100 tweets 15 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Prof Ruth Hall's public lecture is entitled "The Land Question: What is the Answer?" @PLAASUWC @RuthHallPLAAS. The lecture can be livestreamed at uwc.ac.za
Hall has been doing research on the land issue since 1995. @UWCPLAAS @RuthHallPlaas. #UWCLandPublicLecture
In 1993, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was then secretary-general of the ANC, spoke at the Land Redistribution Options Conference in Johannesburg, where a future plan for land reform was being thrashed out. He said in his opening remarks:
‘The massively unequal distribution of land is not merely an unfortunate legacy of apartheid; it is the totally unacceptable continuation of apartheid.’
Looking back now, from 2018, this statement stands as a damning indictment of the ANC’s track record in government, because we can still say that this unacceptable situation has continued.
"My lecture today will pivot on two concerns. Firstly, I will argue that there is not just one land question in South Africa; there are several. How should these land questions be resolved? I will raise seven land questions and suggest some options for debate."
'Secondly, in closing, I will challenge us all to think about what is the role of a University in deepening and democratising our conversations and supporting and shaping this process."
"The public hearings process that is underway, convened by Parliament’s constitutional review committee, has exposed the extent of division and grievance on questions of land."
"Land is simultaneously a material issue about poverty and inequality (who owns assets in our economy) but it also symbolises identity, home and citizenship. We need to acknowledge that the land question is not just a matter of farming, or the economy."
It's something visceral and raw, and what we have seen in recent weeks and months is that South Africans are deeply polarised and this is overwhelmingly along racial lines. We see, time and time again, white, mostly male, farmers arguing against expropriation without compensation
"We see, time and time again, old black women and men speaking of the hardship and pain of land dispossession, and of what it has meant in their lives."
"And young black women and men talking about how this loss continues to affect them and how the poverty it produced continues to shape their lives, even when they have moved to the cities. We are talking past one another."
"There is anger, and there is fear. But there is also some hope of something different to come. What is that something?"
"Let’s start with this: what can we agree upon? Land dispossession is a basis of racial inequality that has been inherited and continues to be perpetuated across generations" #LandDebate #PLAAS
"There has been intergenerational inheritance of poverty, for those who lost land but also livestock, homes, opportunities, were forced into demeaning and exploitative migrant labour and Bantu education. The effects of all this is still held in our current generation."
"There has also been intergenerational inheritance of privilege, for those who got land, accumulated wealth, invested in education, got good (and protected) jobs, and amassed wealth, now often far away from the land itself."
"Giving the land back by itself will not automatically undo all of what has been passed down to us by these generations. But land reform must happen."
"This surely is our common ground, and not in dispute. The disputes are elsewhere, and later I will identify seven questions on which we might well disagree."
"What was land reform meant to do and what has actually happened? Coming into government in 1994, the ANC promised to start by redistributing 30% of commercial farmland within the first five years, but by 1999 less than 1% had been redistributed."
"Here we are 24 years later, and about 9.7% of commercial farmland has been acquired or redistributed (though there are some doubts about official statistics; the real figure could be lower)."
"There has been no national monitoring programme to say what the outcomes have been, but from scientific case studies as well as media reports and anecdotal evidence, we know that many of those getting land have been unable to use it effectively to improve their lives"
"– for two reasons, one of which is the imposition of inappropriate business plans that have attempted to replicate a commercial model of farming and second of which is an absence of appropriate support, itself the result of the dismantling of the institutions.."
"...marketing cooperatives and funding institutions – that built up white capitalist agriculture over the past century."
"So the problems relate not only to the pace of reform but also its inadequate outcomes and wider policy context. There is massive disillusionment."
"The High Level Panel of 2016-2017, appointed by Parliament and chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, found that the state has mismanaged land reform; there has been poor policy and leadership, weak institutions, low budgets, and corruption."
"It explicitly found that the Constitution is not to blame for all this. But as we now know, the popular view is that there should be a change in the Constitution."
"Most people have not read or engaged with the High Level Panel report. The report itself depicts a state hostile to the interests of poor; shoring up private ownership and chiefly powers over the interests of the majority, and in violation of the Constitution."
"The budget for land has never exceeded 1% of the national budget, and currently land reform accounts for just 0.4% of it."
"Bear in mind that a large proportion of the budget is not for buying land but for operating costs, including paying the salaries of civil servants. Political priority must mean an increase in the budget."
"The pace of land redistribution has declined from about half million hectares per year at its zenith in 2007/08 to one-tenth of that in 2015/16. This has nothing to do with the Constitution; it has been a political choice to dismantle land reform over the past 10 years."
"Meanwhile, society has been changing, and one of the great changes has been urbanisation. We now are 62% urbanised. So the land question is no longer a purely rural or agrarian issue, but of course also an urban one."
"Change has been underway in the rural areas too. Whereas there were 60,000 commercial farmers in the mid-1990s, with policy changes and agricultural deregulation, this number has shrunk to only about 35,000, and now there are more companies than individuals owning farms."
"Further, more than half of all farmland in South Africa has been transacted since 1994. This means that while some who own the land got it through colonialism or apartheid, most did not."
"A lot of the new owners are companies rather than white families. Multinational companies, pension funds and others are among the growing owners of farmland."
"So, doing more of the same is not going to be the solution. From available data, we estimate that the scale of forced evictions of poor and black people from the land is greater than the scale of land redistribution – and of course those being evicted and those getting..."
"...land are normally not the same people."
"In the first decade of democracy, over 2 million people were displaced from farms, of whom 940,000 people were forcibly removed from farms. Overall, this means that we are moving backwards in terms of black people’s access to land."
"In reality, as a society, we are engaged in an anti-agrarian reform. And an anti-land reform. Fewer, richer, people, mostly big companies, are coming to own most land, while workers continue to be expelled from farms."
"The plan must recognise that the land question is not restricted to commercial farming areas: people, especially women, in communal areas, have insecure rights to land."
"Many people are losing their land rights because of deals between government, chiefs and mining companies."
"We see this in the platinum belt in the North West, where corrupt deals have been struck, over people’s heads, leading them to be dispossessed – whilst others harvest mining royalties."
"We see the same threat to the community of Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, which is resisting forced removal. They don’t want expropriation and, if expropriated, they want to reach agreement on compensation before being removed from their land."
"Here is the real politics of land in our country, in which it is mostly poor and black citizens whose property rights are under attack.
Here, in the communal areas that make up 13% of the land, there has been no land reform, only an interim law, leaving..."
"...30% of our people, 22 million people, without secure rights."
"Growing commercial interests in these areas have spurred corrupt deals, prompting Motlanthe to refer to chiefs as ‘village tinpot dictators’."
"So there is not one land question. There are multiple questions: urban and rural, and even within the rural, between the commercial farming areas and the communal areas."
"The land questions broadly relate to questions of access (who should get the land) and tenure (what rights people should have)."
"The first point is that the ANC got what it wanted during the constitutional assembly in 1995. Remember that the property clause was not negotiated at CODESA. It was not part of a pacting phase."
"As Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi has pointed out, there is a common misconception that the property clause provides a blanket right to private property. It does not do so."
"Section S25(1) provides a negative right, which is the process through which anyone – a farm owner, a farm worker, someone living in a backyard shack, a suburban homeowner or someone living in a communal area – can be deprived of their property."
"It just says that we should not be discriminatory in the way we deprive people of property and there should be no arbitrary eviction. But the clause of course then goes on to say that the state can expropriate, in the public interest, for land reform."
"And compensation should be ‘just and equitable’ – but this has never been used. Could compensation be set at zero? Yes, as long as this is just and equitable."
"Do we want a dispensation that is unjust and inequitable? Or do we want confiscation?"
"The rest of the property clause says there must be land redistribution, access to land on an equitable basis (Section 25(5)). There must be tenure reform and stronger property rights for people whose rights have been insecure because of colonialism and apartheid (Section 25(6))"
"There must be restitution for those dispossessed unfairly (Section 25(7)). And if you are still not sure, then read the override clause (Section 25(8)), which says that nothing here can impede the state from taking measures to achieve real transformation."
"The mandate for transformation is clear. Nothing can hold the state back. The state must go forth and conquer. And it did not."
"The property clause thus grants only limited procedural safeguards to existing property-owners while mandating transformed property relations between the landed and the landless and between owners and tenants. Agreement between the political parties was reached at midnight..."
"...on 18 April 1996."
"The question is not merely how to do more of what we are already doing; it is to entirely reconfigure the entire system, who it is for and what it is going to produce."
"Confiscatory land reforms have been highly successful in several places, in particular points in time, in East Asia in particular, where they laid the basis for broad-based growth and reduced inequality."
"For instance, in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from the late 1940s into the 1950s and later in the Indian states of West Bengal and Kerala in the 1970s, where classes of landlords were deprived of their land, and this land was turned over to tenant farmers who had been..."
"...paying rent to them for years – for generations."
"In these cases, it was obvious who the land reform was for: it was ‘land to the tiller’. In our case of de-agrarianised South Africa, where black people have been kicked off the land, it is not so clear in whose interests the land is to be taken."
"Should it be the farm workers? Should the land be shared among those who work it, as the Freedom Charter demanded? Or black farmers who are already farming in the communal areas?"
"Or urban businessmen (yes, it has mostly been men) who want to diversify, and farm on the side while running other businesses? These are the questions we should ask."
"And the class agenda has changed over time. In the Mandela era of the 1990s, the focus was explicitly on the poor, and there was a means test, equivalent to the housing subsidy: land would be only for the poor."
"Mbeki’s government changed this, and land subsidies were available to any black South African, with a focus on those with the potential to become commercial farmers – and had their own capital to invest."
"This meant handing farms from a white commercial farmer to a black commercial farmer – not agrarian reform, and often replicating the same labour relations, but now the farm workers had a black boss."
"In the Zuma period, again there has been elite capture of land reform, but now people getting land do not get title. I will come back to that."
"So, instead of current policy, which opens up space for elite capture, an alternative answer would be to give priority for landless and land-poor farmers, farm workers, the peri-urban landless – in other words, not primarily commercial farmers or agribusinesses."
"Should we aim to clarify what is ‘equitable access’ to land? Does this mean priority should be given to those who have nothing and are in greatest need?"
Seven provocative questions
1. Land reform for whom? This is about the class agenda. Let us talk about class, alongside race and gender.
2. Land for what?
What is land reform for, and what should its outcomes look like?
3. Where?
Which land should be targeted, where? Presumably we want not only land that is being offered on the market; rather we want well-located land. And there must be smallholdings – this means that the state must be willing to subdivide.
4. Why do some people get big commercial farms while most get nothing? This has led to elite capture and corruption, including collusion between landowners and state officials.
5. How to get the land? Bear in mind that a foundational principle in the Constitution, in Section 1, is about founding provisions, non-racism and non-sexism, and the Limitations Clause, Section 36, requires that any limitation is reasonable and justifiable in a democracy...
...These can be changed. We can have discriminatory law – but that would require a 75% majority vote, which is unlikely.
6. Whether or not to compensate? When expropriating, should people who have owned or held property be compensated? Again, this hinges on whether there is nationalisation or whether it is determined on a case-by-case basis.
7. With what tenure? Should people get private title to land? Or should there be legal recognition of their rights, even if we go with a model of state leasehold and state trusteeship? There is much experience of nationalisation across many African countries.
"Concluding, then, we need to debate how people can get long-term secure rights, and should these take the form of private title or 30 year leases, or 50 year leases, and should these be given to individuals, families, communities or cooperatives?"
"The High Level Panel proposes recognition of occupation – by the poor, and for their own livelihoods and not for speculation and profit – as constituting ownership after three years. So perhaps we should rethink land and property tenure."
"There are alternatives to private ownership and state ownership. Recognising the reality that most people hold informal land rights is key, and a new Land Records Bill could potentially provide the basis for people to record their informal land rights and..."
"start to challenge both private and state ownership."
"UWC has a proud history of responding to the land question
Recall that during the mass democratic movement of the 1980s, UWC became known as the intellectual home of the left and, in the early 1990s, UWC was a centre of framing a new constitutional dispensation."
"At this time, around 1993, Brigitte Mabandla, Kader Asmal and Amy Biehl were among those who led a key conference which was held here which focused on what would a non-racist and non-sexist South Africa look like, and who would hold the land?"
"This addressed not only redistribution of white-owned land but also chiefly power and the rights of women in customary areas. On the latter, there was no consensus – and sadly there still is none."
"By 1995, the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) – now the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies – was established within the School of Government. It is now a stand-alone institute doing research across South Africa and across 22 countries within Africa."
"Because, while South Africa might be an extreme example of land dispossession, we are not entirely exceptional, and questions of land, race, class and gender are important around our continent and around the world."
"The role of a University is both to reflect and to lead society. Beyond the sloganeering and rhetoric, can we as a University community take the conversation to a new place?"
"A final proposition: Should we as South Africans think that change will come from above? It will likely come from below, from society rather than the state. The law is an enabler but by itself won’t produce transformed land relations."
"Finally, I am not interested in whether or not the Constitution changes. I am interested in what land reform we pursue. I think there are three dimensions to this:"
"Firstly, building clearer rights for the state to expropriate without compensation and clarifying policy on when, where, how, why, who. A new Expropriation Bill is needed; one is currently in Parliament and should be amended and expedited."
"Secondly, and as a counterpart to this, and because we cannot always trust the state, which must be pushed to advance the interests of the poor, and needs to be held back from allowing elites to capture benefits, we need to think about building the rights of citizens..."
"... to hold the state to account through a Redistribution Bill."
"Thirdly, building alliances within and beyond Universities, between academics and students, civil society organisations and social movements. What could this look like? Should we have teach-ins? The role of universities and intellectuals is to add onto the anger with analysis"
"I will leave my input here, with an open invitation for you, as the University community, to come back with your responses to my questions, and your suggestions as to what you think should be done. What are your responses to my seven questions?"
"How can UWC academics and students have better conversations about land? How can and must we contribute to society, and stand in alliance with society, rather than separate from it?"
That concludes the public lecture: "The current land debate in South Africa" by @RuthHallPLAAS. Students are now engaging in the debate.
A UWC Student participates in the debate following the @RuthHallPLAAS public lecture @PLAASuwc
Prof @RuthHallPLAAS engages students at her #UWCLandPublicLecture @PLAASUWC

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