Land is a hot topic

Dr Ellapen Rapiti, Kenwyn

The expropriation of land, which has become a hotly debated topic by ordinary citizens, is more a slogan for the desperate than it is a workable policy. It seems to have been contrived by a group of people at the ANCs 54th national conference for the sole purpose of combatting it’s dwindling support amongst the electorate and its own members, who are plain fed up with the ruling party’s gross abuse of its powers and the unbridled corruption by state institutions with the tacit approval of an unconcerned self-serving president.

The law, “expropriation without compensation” does not outline the details of its implementation, its objectives nor were the negative inherent ramifications clearly thought through.

The EFF latched onto the slogan by its very vociferous leader, Malema, who was desperately looking for something to fill the void left by his erstwhile nemesis’s, Zuma’s, resignation to give credence for his and his party’s existence.

In the absence of proper directions, guidelines, rules and objectives, it would be a veritable nightmare for the government to implement the policy and for the courts to ensure that ordinary law abiding citizens are not trampled on as it has always been done when locals attacks foreign businesses in the country, whenever they get the urge to do so.

For example, how long back in history are we going to go to establish a starting point for this exercise? Would it be from four or 10 centuries back? Who are the rightful owners: would it be the kings, their families and the kings’ subjects; individuals and their millions of unidentifiable descendants?

A major concern for all citizens is which property will be expropriated, for what reasons and what happens to citizens who end up losing everything by reckless crowds, when the government does not deliver according to their expectations or of their populist leader.

What about foreigner investors who bought property, after independence to build hotels and all types of businesses, because our free market policies made us a very attractive destination for new investments?

The law is so vague that it can be very conveniently misinterpreted by a hothead like Malema, who would not think twice about grabbing anything that takes his fancy just to draw media attention, even if the ensuing mayhem destroys our image among the international community.

What the country desperately needs after a decade of looting by Zuma and most of his ministers is housing, jobs and proper service delivery, not acres of barren land that cannot produce anything.

Much of the land in our drought prone country is of little use to anyone. The rural people are steadily converging to the cities for better pastures because of a lack of job opportunities and the total lack of service delivery in rural areas. This trend is a worldwide one and will carry on unabated, so governments have to prepare for the avalanche of ever-increasing new arrivals into the cities.

With the increase of people from rural areas, there will be the huge burden of providing homes and jobs because many of them lack skills for the job market in the cities.

Instead of focusing on solving the land issue through the tenuous policy of land expropriation, the government and all the political parties should work on a plan to reduce the gross inequities in wealth distribution between the previously advantaged groups and disadvantaged groups by ensuring that the previously disadvantaged are given opportunities to become entrepreneurs owning their own businesses and cease being hapless slaves of the previously advantaged citizens of this country.

The small and medium enterprises are the only way to make a huge dent in our unemployment rates because they employ far more people than the big corporate businesses do. One can only hope that the ruling party will handle this delicate situation of land expropriation with prudence and caution before we end up with anarchy and a civil war or a pariah of the international community – something we can ill-afford after eight years of Zuma’s terrible leadership.