Over the last week a high-level ANC delegation engaged with AgriSA in a frank and robust discussion on pertinent matters related to land. We are happy that the audience represented the entire value chain agricultural; which included commercial farmers, producers, banks, risk managers and other stakeholders. This engagement underscored the ANC’s commitment to constructive engagement with farmers and finding each other on matters of mutual interest.
As we walked into the room, the tension was palpable and the air pregnant with anticipation. We were the kids from the ‘other side of the railway line’ venturing into a territory others felt we had no business in. We were buoyed by our determination to advance our objective to build a nation-state that is truly united and citizenry that is South African first, before being black or white. None in the room knew what to expect, as the run-up to the meeting was characterised by innuendo and rumour-mongering about the ANC’s position on expropriation of land without compensation. An audience of 200 farmers from all corners of South Africa was not the usual audience ANC leaders were accustomed to, yet this response to the ANC’s invitation spoke volumes.
As we navigate the challenging landscape of a nation in transition, we are guided by the policy dictates of the Freedom Charter which proclaims that “The land shall be shared among to those who work it”. Ours remains a contested terrain and the promised land for those who bore the brunt of apartheid oppression cannot remain a pipe dream. President Ramaphosa, in his maiden State of the Nation Address refers to the land question as the original sin, which must be confronted head-on if we are to reach our full potential as a nation.
We applauded AgriSA for its posture and belief that the solution to our challenges will come from South Africans, when foreign forces wanted to interfere and dictate as to how we should address the land question. The ANC remains firm in its commitment that the engagements with farmers will continue beyond the AgriSA dialogue, and we will engage further with other stakeholders in the sector. The dialogue is about listening and developing an architecture into the future.
The ANC is under no illusion about the importance of land as a catalyst to growing the economy, restoring the dignity of millions of South Africans and ensuring food security. Land reform is not limited to farm-land, but extends to urban areas to includes land for human settlement. The uncertainty and anxiety expressed by the farmers is appreciated and the ANC is committed to dealing with the matter in a responsible manner that will give policy certainty and firmly within the ambit of the law. The ANC is encouraged by the commitment by the farmers to be part of the solution in enabling land redistribution and empowering black farmers, including advancing broad-based black economic (BBBEE) in the agricultural sector. This is notwithstanding their apprehension towards the policy proposal of expropriation without compensation. It remains our considered view that the ANC policy posture in this regard does not seek to alienate any race group or stakeholder, but seeks to achieve a progressive outcome that will place the country’s economy on higher growth path.
The ANC’s proposal to effect amendments to the Constitution to clarify the circumstances under which the state may expropriate land without compensation will not erode property rights. A false narrative that suggests otherwise has been peddled in our public discourse by those with nefarious motives and are desperate to sustain the apartheid legacy. There is no doubt that our policy proposals will ensure that the rights of all South Africans to land, and not just those who currently own land, will be strengthened. The proposed amendments will provide clarity and certainty on how land reform will be effected, and as such, there is no reason such amendments should cause alarm, be it on the part of a farmer or an investors.
The ANC has listened intently to the constructive contributions and has taken note of the concerns and challenges raised by the farmers. We have similarly taken note of solutions suggested and have undertaken to look closely at these. The meeting, amongst others, recommended that we look at a number of issues that affect the livelihood of farmers which, if addressed properly, may provide mutually beneficial outcomes.
The sustainability model for land redistribution and restitution policies is a critical cornerstone to ensure affordable food security and policy certainty. The ANC has committed that the broader land reform and agrarian reform is anchored on sustainable interventions that are informed by the lessons of the last two decades. This model is underpinned by the understanding that the rule of law is sacrosanct and this process will unfold in an orderly manner and no land grabs will be tolerated.
It must be appreciated that our commitment in ensuring thriving agro businesses that benefit all citizens and empowers black farmers is central to the country’s land redistribution programme. We will work with the farming community and all other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain to maximise the value the sector adds to the economy.
We are under no illusion that we have found each other on many issues with AgriSA and have no doubt that we will also find common ground with other stakeholders in the sector. Critical factors that affect farmers require joint action and our resolve to finding lasting solutions has never been greater. Issues ranging from public sector financial support for commercial development as part of the long-term plan, access to bulk infrastructure to market access for farmers through trade agreements are top-most amongst the concerns raised by the farmers and we remain seized with these matters.
It is no fallacy that those who have a genuine interest in working with us for mutually beneficial outcomes have understood our vision on land redistribution and have expressed appreciation of the need to moved decisively in addressing this challenge. Foreign leaders have stood next to President Ramaphosa and expressed support to our policy direction. A landless people is a lost nation that has no prospects of lifting itself out of the quagmire of poverty.
By Fikile Mbalula, ANC NEC member and Head of Elections