Memorandum of understanding on “The Land”

5 Jun 2018

This summary below is my contribution to the land question, from a believer in One Race, The Human Race. The following is my list of understandings, I am sure there will be more.

  • There should be acknowledgement  by  whites for the injustices of the past, including hurt and humiliation that  black Africans suffered, from laws that deprived them of land, restricted movement, prevented them from developing to their full potential through the racial laws of apartheid.
  • The founders of our democracy arising from  the negotiations at CODESA have provided  the peace,  for us all  to have  freedom of opportunity in this country…this in a nation state of nine provinces with  eleven official languages. The new country, that is our destiny, all of us black and white to now live here together, quidded  by a remarkable document, our Constitution.
  • Freedom of opportunity now needs individuals and communities to be able to take up the opportunities to reach self-fulfilment. Land is part of the fulfilment. It would be a mistake to think that in the modern age, unlike when the land was dispossessed that it is only land that leads to fulfilment. Economic independence should be a goal of fulfilment.It does require, basics in education, knowledge, understanding of the workings of a modern economy, skills and capital support. Ambition is a requirement and the taking up of a career in a chosen field, in a profession, in business, in farming, in a craft or a trade, it requires coaches and mentors.
  • A top priority is protection of land, regardless of who owns it. This means protection of grasses by not over grazing, protection of indigenous trees, bushes and shrubs and protection of indigenous animals.
  • What is the intent of the Government and those supporting the call for expropriation without compensation?  It needs an honest debate.  It was an exercise our founding fathers undertook in crafting our Constitution.
  • The fact that 70% of our citizens, the majority, will be living in cities means this should not be neglected by the state. City development and investment must be a priority. The development of city clusters in an African context is an exciting subject on its own. The dual living of on the land and in the city needs a separate  discussion…those giving up living in the rural areas and moving to the cities should be assisted by a free grant of land in a service township and financial assistance to build a house of acceptable standards. While the community land they lived on becomes part of a commercial agricultural enterprise.
  • The idea that all land becomes state owned and leased back has huge pitfalls. The state in developing countries are not good landlords, the abuse and corruption of a young inexperienced political party in power is a major factor, fairness to all would be impossible.  We also live in a time, worldwide, where land is integral with the economy, including FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). Capital loans are based on the value of property that includes the land. Take it away, what follows? It is also a huge sense of pride and incentive for the people to own their own properties with title deeds. Paid up land in the hands of owners is a major stabilising factor. Citizens unable to pay the rent to the state will create untold hardships. Paid up properties or the reduction of outstanding loans is a survival strategy for property owners. Lease hold property does have its place, in limited undertakings but not nationalising property. There are lessons in Mozambique, their economy has battled since land became state owned and their national budget is subsidised by foreign aid .
  • Ownership, if it is collective, should use modern structures, the use of a company propriety limited, with shareholders. Giving farming enterprises to communities under a chiefdom has weaknesses.  Boards of directors should be appointed, then a competent CEO (Chief Executive Officer). It is a structure that works and provides freedom for individuals to buy and sell shares. Big corporate structures in agricultural production must be part of the mix with shareholding schemes for staff.
  • Land and capital, these go together like a marriage, many farms do not produce sufficient cash flows to pay their way, it is a modern phenomenon. Farms of all descriptions, game farms, wine farms, mountain reserve farms as well farms producing agricultural products are owned by persons or companies that provide the necessary capital to make the investment in all the equipment building etc. These owners may support these farms financially for many years by providing the necessary cash flow.
  • Thriving commercial farms are hugely beneficial to the economy, from employment of staff, suppliers in many small businesses, machines shops, vehicle and tractor dealers. Not to mention mutual dependence farms have for schools, clinics , agricultural colleges, Universities, veterinarians. A thriving farming community is the life blood of many small towns.

The non-derogable Rights at the end of Chapter 2 of the Constitution might provide the answer to compensation being necessary in the expropriation of land. Without compensation you are invariably punishing innocent people and harming others employed directly or indirectly in the linked businesses. In the rhetoric we are losing sight of land being part of a business with all the value chains this implies.