More punishment than justice
Last month parliament’s joint constitutional review committee adopted a resolution that section 25 of the constitution be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation.
If the legislative programme goes ahead as expected, the National Assembly will adopt the amendment of section 25 of the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation by March 31 2019.
It looks like the deal is done. Should owners of private property be concerned?
Yes, and no.
Let us deal with the “no” first.
If the ruling party adopts the most radical position on expropriation without compensation, the EFF position, things are not as bad as they seem.
There is, of course, the issue of the EFF’s image.
It is difficult, at the best of times, to imagine anything sensible coming from it.
But, when writing about politics, I usually start from the position that good people can be bad, bad people can be good.
Unless, of course you consider that your own ethnic, religious or racial group is eternally innocent and always right.
There really are people who believe that … Never mind.
On paper, the EFF’s policies on personal property seem largely inoffensive.
Quoted verbatim from the EFF’s policy documents, homeowners have nothing to fear.
The EFF’s policies on this are clear:
“No one will lose their house as a result of land expropriation without compensation. A house consists of immovable property that is a product of an individual’s labour and, therefore, the private property of that individual.
“The plot on which a house is built is rendered unusable for any other purpose, and because of its attachment to a house, which is immovable property, the plot becomes an accessory to the house and hence the property of the owner.
“What this means is that while homeowners’ rights to their homes are secure, any other piece of land outside the homeowners’ plot is automatically ceded to the state. The state can then directly intervene to declutter townships and ensure a balanced allocation of land for residential purposes, building low-cost housing in areas previously seen as enclaves of whites and the rich.
“The state must also ensure provision of land for urban agricultural development and recreational areas to ensure a balanced social environment suitable for human habitation.”
On paper, there seems little cause for concern.
But as we say in football, you might have a good team on paper, but the game is played on grass.
Here we get to the “yes, we should be worried”.
At the level of perception – and this perception is important – and based on any number of violent incidents or threats of violence from the destruction of H&M stores, or Vodacom outlets; references to cutting the throat of whiteness; singling out people of Indian heritage; references to genocide; insulting African people who do not “speak like Africans” and firing rifles in public places, the EFF represents a danger to society.
It also seems clear that the EFF is not interested in the land, but it wants what is on the land, and is driven by the politics of revenge and punishment.
The idea of punishment can be found in the way that the EFF (and large factions within the ANC, or the Black First Land First Movement) want whites, coloured and Indians to suffer the way that Africans did.
We are, of course, expected to accept this as a necessary process of revenge for centuries of colonial, settler colonial and apartheid’s injustices.
How can anyone disagree with that?
It becomes terribly odious when indigenous Africans who “speak the Queen’s English” or have a “model C” accent are included in the EFF’s crosshairs.
What seems clear from the EFF’s rhetoric, and increasingly of ANC backbenchers, is an increase in the politics of revenge and of punishment as an end in itself.
This punishment has some Biblical overtones.
For instance, we read in the book of Joshua 7:1-5, in the Hebrew Bible, that when Achan, the son of Carni, stole an ingot of gold, a quantity of silver and a garment from Jericho, the entire Israelite army was defeated at Ai, in Canaan.
Joshua 7:22–26 tells us that following Achan’s original crime his entire family was stoned.
In Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5: 9-10, we learn that the sins of the parents could be punished to the third and fourth generation.
So if an ancestor stole a piece of land, you will be punished.
We are at a point, now, where expropriation without compensation will probably go ahead.
But it may not proceed piecemeal.
Recall that the EFF, the Black First Land First Movement and increasingly ANC backbenchers are not happy with the gradualism of the Mandela era.
Expropriation of land will probably not be peaceful.
As Julius Malema and Andile Mngxitama have assured us, there will be bloodshed and people are prepared to die for the land.