President Cyril Ramaphosa managed to press the pause button on the “swart gevaar” fears surrounding land expropriation without compensation during his first question and answer session in parliament as the country’s leader.
In allaying fears, Ramaphosa told MPs all issues around land would be an inclusive process in which all South Africans are actively involved.
His assurance comes after land grab incidents at the weekend which analysts say opposition parties used to their electioneering advantage ahead of next year’s national elections.
But Ramaphosa was quick to call for calm, even if only temporarily, said political analyst Daniel Silke.
“It was imperative Ramaphosa made some effort to de-escalate what rapidly became a divisive and polarising issue within the country,” said Silke.
“What we saw was an effort to try and return the debate to one of pending and extensive dialogue over the next months.
“He tried to control the narrative of land … and he largely succeeded in reining in some of the more extreme views on all sides. He was able to put a pause on the fear-mongering, radical language and the politicking.
“It was a mature way of dealing with it in true Ramaphosa style. But, of course, this is an issue that is going to boil for any number of months and perhaps even longer. I think this approach would have calmed some of the nerves in various quarters.”
Ramaphosa told MPs “swart gevaar electioneering” should not be resorted to and divisive measures to redirect injustices of the past rather needed applying.
“I invite all those who are angry, uncertain and anxious to be part of finding a solution,” he said, adding that South Africans needed to work together, guided by the needs of the poor.
Rather than being scared, “hiding heads in the sand and coming with swart gevaar mentalities”, come to the party and find solutions, he urged.
“This is a time we need to sit back and listen to heart wrenching stories of those whose lands and assets were taken from them … right now they have nothing … this parliament is called upon to come up with solutions … this parliament has an opportunity to deal with this matter.”
Government was also of the view that it was time to begin the process on the best way forward, Ramaphosa said. In this regard, a dialogue process with experts to begin the process and come up with solutions had been initiated.
Silke said Ramaphosa faced a substantial challenge on land issues, including acting on illegal land grabs.
“And he said he would. I think if there is action on that, it would also allay some fears that land grabs would just become the order of the day.
“The proof will be in the results. In the short term, he would have done some rescue work – but the hard work is on the ongoing dialogue he wants to establish.”