ON the day that marked 40 years since the death of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the founding president of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), South Africa went through a watershed moment yesterday, when Parliament passed a constitutional amendment allowing for expropriation of land without compensation. The PAC’s rallying cry Izwe-Lethu (Our Land) has always focused on land justice and land ownership patterns in South Africa.
In a show of unity and as a sign of what can be achieved when Black political parties unite for a common good of the marginalised and dispossessed people of this land, it was resolved that the Constitutional Review Committee of Parliament, reviews Section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses where necessary, to sufficiently cater for the principle of land expropriation without compensation. The Constitutional Review Committee has been directed to prioritise this issue and report back to parliament by 30 August 2018.
The motion was tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and supported with amendments by the African National Congress (ANC) and other smaller parties. The EFF was defeated last time it attempted to have the constitutional amendments made and at the time, the ANC refused to support the motion and was thoroughly lambasted by former President Jacob Zuma who called for unity among Blacks on the land issue.
The policy of land expropriation without compensation was adopted at the ANC 54th National Conference in December. The ruling party resolved there that the policy should be pursued without destabilising the agricultural sector; without endangering food security in the country; and without undermining economic growth and job creation.
HOW LAND DISPOSSESSION OF AFRICAN PEOPLE HAPPENED
- South Africa’s land question started with the Berlin Act of 26 February 1885 through which South Africa became a British colony.
- The Union of South Africa Act 1909. Its main aim was to unite the four British colonies of Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State to fight the “native danger” (African resistance against European colonialism). This act immediately legalised racial discrimination against Africans. Section 44 read, “The qualifications of a Member of the House of Assembly shall be a British subject of European descent.”
- The Native Land Act 1913 was passed, through which Africans were allocated a paltry 7% of their own country to over five million Africans and giving the remaining 93 per cent of the land to 349,837 European colonial settlers
- Sol Plaatje who was a writer as well as the first secretary of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) explained why this genocide law was made. “In the beginning of the last decade [of the 19th century], there was panic among White farmers because it was discovered that some Natives had garnered three thousand bags of wheat” in a neighbourhood where their White neighbours reaped only 300 to 400 bags. ‘Where will we get servants?’ it was asked, ‘if Kaffirs are allowed to become skilled”” if they are inclined to herd pedigree stock, let them improve their master’s (White man’s) cattle and cultivate for[White] land owners – not for themselves.’”
- In July 1914 Sol Plaatje, John Dube and three other leaders of SANNC arrived in London to present a petition to King George V. They demanded that Africans be put in possession of land according to population numbers and on the same conditions as the Europeans. The English king, whose country had colonised this African country, gave the African leaders neither sympathy nor any kind of help. They returned from Britain empty handed.
- The 1943 document Africans’ Claims in South Africa and The Bill of Rights, by the Youth League of the 1912 ANC, under the leadership of Dr. Antony Muziwakhe Lembede and A.P. Mda, reads:“We demand the right to an equal share of all the material resources of the country and urge that the present allocation of 13 per cent of the surface area to eight million Africans against two million Europeans is unjust ”¦ demand a fair redistribution of land.”
- The 1944 Youth League Manifesto inter alia states, “The White race possessing superior military power” has arrogated to itself the ownership of the land and country. This has meant that the African who owned the land before the advent of the Whites has been deprived of all security, which may guarantee or ensure his leading a free and hampered life.”
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