Kaunda Selisho

By Kaunda Selisho


Survey finds only 30% of people in SA support land expropriation without compensation

Perhaps most astonishingly, nearly as many people had never even heard of the concept, while most reject the EFF's policy plan once they understand it.

This and other findings were shared in the second part of the Institute of Race Relations’s comprehensive survey of voters conducted between 22 August 2018 and 4 September 2018.

This poll, published as The Criterion Report, is the first of its kind, surveying the electoral landscape in what the institute hopes to continue to do in an effort to become an authority on political market research.

Following the ANC’s announcement that it plans to amend the constitution to allow for land expropriation, the survey focused on land, land reform, property rights and the attitude of voters towards these issues.

The policy has been strongly advocated by populist politicians such as the EFF’s leader Julius Malema, who maintains that most black people would like to see land expropriated without compensation. However, Malema wants all land to be nationalised and administered by the state, an outcome survey respondents were apparently not in favour of once the implications about it were spelled out to them.

According to the IRR’s analysis of the findings, the key insights include the fact that 27% of all voters (nearly one in three people) have not heard of expropriation without compensation (EWC), 41% of all voters who have heard of EWC, “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose the policy and only 30% of all voters who have heard of EWC “somewhat” or “strongly” support the policy.

In addition, 51% of all voters believe an alternative to EWC should be pursued, while 17% believe no land reform is necessary. 68% of all voters believe “individuals should have the right to own land in their private capacity” and 31% of all voters believe “all land in South Africa should be owned by the government”.

Lastly, the IRR reports that “support for EWC collapses when respondents are asked whether government should be able to take land they own themselves” as 90% of all voters are “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed to that idea.

Based on these stats, the IRR has deduced that “the great majority of black South Africans have little interest in land reform” and they view more jobs and better education as a more viable option for their advancement in society.

Of the overall sample group, 30% of all voters felt a policy of “taking land from whites without paying” was closest to their view while 51% felt that an alternative best represented their view. Among these alternatives were the “willing buyer-willing seller” approach or the “redistribution of government land”.

The numbers of the overall sample group closely match the stats among black voters surveyed on this matter while the number of minority voters who felt a policy of “taking land from whites without paying” was closest to their view stood at just 3%.

A figure of 70% felt that an alternative best represented their view, with 30% in favour of the “willing buyer-willing seller” approach. Forty perfect wanted the “redistribution of government land”.

Twenty-four percent of minority voters felt there was no need for land reform.

“This is a significant insight. It suggests that those political parties which have a vested interest in countering the EFF’s narrative (that all land should be owned by the state) need to be able to demonstrate the practical implications of the policy for individuals. If they can do that, support for the policy falls dramatically. 31% of voters might be favourable to the abstract idea of expropriation without compensation, but when it is brought home in real terms – when the implications for their own property is explained – it is rejected.”

So, if support for EWC is not as strong as initially thought, was the ANC right to forge on with the idea?

Senior researcher and distinguished economist Charles Simkins seems to think so, as he has noted that demand for land seems to be higher in urban areas, particularly in the metros, as opposed to the rural areas, as most would believe.

Simkins believes government has a lot of work to do at what he calls the secondary level (ie, the level after the constitution) in terms of concept development, legislation and resourcing related to expropriation.

“The findings in the report don’t surprise me and they seem to have done their findings and their methods well,” said Simkins.

Despite disagreeing with the ANC’s methods at attempting to change legislation, political commentator and author Trevor Kamoto believes government is headed in the right direction. He does believe, however, that government “will be looking to excite and entice people with all sorts of populist and demagogic rhetoric” in the lead-up to the 2019 elections.

“One would be tempted to ask what our government would achieve in the few months leading up to elections that they could not achieve in the past two decades. The land debate remains ever so sensitive with all parties looking to weigh in on it for all sorts of different end goals and purposes,” said Kamoto.

He went on to call the merits of the report into question, stating that he believes the assertions of the report are “somewhat fallacious and exaggerated” in their claim that more than 20% of voters have not even heard of the term EWC.

“South Africans from all walks of life understand and have acquainted themselves with the merits of the land debate. One would be forced to ask whether the Criterion Report has any agenda whatsoever with this half-baked and inaccurate report,” added Kamoto.

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