ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe says South Africans need to demystify the myth that black ownership of land is equivalent to the detraction of food production and security in the country.
Mantashe says the tough debate on the land question – particularly on land expropriation without compensation – should focus on the fair distribution of the land to all citizens, as well as address the fears of those who own land.
“I think we should totally demystify that narrative because it is dangerous,” Mantashe said, speaking at a dialogue on land reform at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo, Johannesburg.
“If you don’t have access to land and they say you can’t farm, they are right because you can’t be a farmer unless you farm. And you can’t farm unless you have access to land. It is a dangerous narrative that giving access to land will destroy food production and security,” he added.
Mantashe reiterated the ANC’s position on land expropriation without compensation, as among the mechanisms available to give effect to land reform and redistribution, saying its implementation would not result in illegal land grabs and anarchy.
“We should understand the fears of those who sit on the land when we talk about expropriation without compensation. The reality of the matter is that it is not a policy to drive whites to the sea, that is not the policy […] it’s about fair distribution of land and giving our people access to that land,” Mantashe said.
He said citizens could no longer postpone the debate on land, as it would be hijacked by extremists.
“If rational people in South Africa don’t take the discussion on land forward and come up with ideas that make land redistribution a reality, the extreme peripheries are going to take over the debate and this debate is going to be characterised by anarchy.”
Wars of dispossession
Mantashe said wars that resulted in the dispossession of land by black people before the enactment of the 1913 Natives Land Act, needs to feature prominently in debates about the land.
“You can’t be ahistorical when you deal with the land question. You link it to the wars of dispossession. You should be able to trace the movement of the boundaries […] because those were the results of wars. If we don’t touch those wounds, we are not going to be able to settle the land question,” he said.
He said the “emotional side of land hunger” should be the focus for all citizens.
“In these debates we must tell those emotional aspects of land dispossession because if we are not talking about them, we are not going to heal and land restoration is not going to happen,” Mantashe said.