The real land expropriation movement in South Africa


There has been a massive international reaction to the vote in South Africa to begin the process of land reform, but the ANC is not interested in real land redistribution and persecutes the shack dwellers who are carrying it out.

Submitted by Mike Harman on March 3, 2018

Let's look at what the ANC actually says about land reform first. Bloomberg, no friend of poor black South Africans, reported that in a speech to lawmakers on Thursday, Cyril Ramaphosa said that the ANC's proposal to expropriate land without paying for it will be done responsibly and farming must continue as normal, “There will be no smash and grab” of land.1

Ramaphosa went from general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers to a director and shareholder of Lonmin. In 2012 workers at the Marikana mine owned by Lonmin were shot by the joint forces of Lonmin security, NUM members, and South African police during a strike. 2

The supposedly radical EFF is not arguing for the redistribution of land to poor black South Africans either, but to the state. Julius Malema told reporters "Every land in South Africa should be expropriated without compensation.The state should be the custodian of the land." Instead of expropriation, what is actually being proposed is state ownership, and leasing by the existing owners, who would continue to run their businesses as they had previously "No one is going to lose his or her house, no one is going to lose his or her flat, no one is going to lose his or her factory or industry. All we are saying is they will not have the ownership of the land."3

The left's response to this has mostly been to write articles and send tweets focusing on the far-right's over-reaction to this policy, with Katie Hopkins and Lauren Southern doing competing 'white genocide' tours. While the far-right's attempt to capitalise on this utterly banal and meaningless news might be disgusting, an actual movement for land reform is once again being ignored. More worrying has been sections of the left taking the far-right and Afrikaner apartheid nostalgia propaganda at face value, celebrating the 'expropriations' as a long overdue reckoning with white landowners. Sorry to disappoint you, but this is just fantasism that completely ignores the last 25 years of the ANC, which is only interested in the smooth functioning of capital accumulation.

While the international left and right massively over-react to a minor change in policy, that at it's most extreme might result in some uncompensated nationalisations, with white farmers converted to CEOs of their leasehold farms instead of landowners, there is a real land expropriation movement in South Africa that is being ignored.

Abahlali baseMjondolo announced on 28th February that after waiting for months for confirmation from local authorities, that residents of the Good Hope informal settlement in Germiston, in the East Rand region of Gauteng, they will take occupation of land on 15th March which has been identified for months as suitable for house building. Abahlali baseMjondolo organises shack dwellers in the informal settlements that surround most South African cities.

Rather than distributing land to people forced to live in corrugated iron shacks for years, the ANC instead has been implicated in issuing death threats, kidnapping, torturing and murdering activists of the shack dwellers movement.

With this record, there is no indication that 'land seizures' will be anything other than a nominal change of ownership, while the black working class in South Africa is forced to take things into its own hands in the face of state repression.

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