Where’s My Compensation? Land Redistribution in South Africa
Free markets for free societies are falling out fashion. Unfortunately, South Africa is the next state to satisfy this trend. Potentially irreversible financial and social challenges complicate this nation’s past as a racialized regime under Apartheid.
At the start of 2018, the radical-leftist party known as the Economic Freedom Fighters advocated for the expropriation of land without compensation from white Afrikaners to black South Africans to satisfy racial grievances.
A two-third majority vote within the ANC, EFF and other minority parties overturned their constitution to pursue the seizure of land as a possible option to remedy land inequalities.
The motion passed 241 votes in favor versus 83 votes against. Parliament then instructed for the creation of a committee to review Section 25 by issuing a report with their findings for August 30, 2018.
Feasibility and the fate of Zimbabwe
Like South Africa, Zimbabwe underwent a similar situation of land expropriation which disenfranchised the nation and its citizens to such an extent that extensive foreign aid was essential to counteract such economic setbacks.
After Zimbabwe expropriated land from white to black Zimbabweans, the financial instability led to agricultural-market disruption.
Ironically, the Zimbabwean government has recently established a compensation committee under its land acquisition act to provide compensation for dispossessed white former commercial farmers for land that was seized eighteen years ago.
With this in mind, how does the Parliament of South Africa pass a policy prerogative to pursue the same course of action as Zimbabwe when it has already failed?
In 2009, economist Eddie Cross estimated the cost of Zimbabwe’s land reform at $20 billion–which included lost export revenues, food aid imports, and economic growth foregone, which sustained Zimbabwe’s once promising economy, had it not seized farms without compensation.
After unemployment rates of 90 percent, the Zimbabwean government has decided to correct the fundamental mistake by offering reparations to farmers. The estimated compensation costs are estimated to amount to $11 billion.
Difficulties with implementation and implications of this policy are two key considerations for evaluating the effectiveness of expropriation without compensation as a form of reparations.
First, if the constitution is amended to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation, what will be specifically covered under the acquisition of the farm. Will farm equipment and other assets be included under the amendment to cultivate the land?
The land on its own is worth roughly 10 percent of the total value of a typical farm operation, if fixed and movable assets are taken into account. To what extent can various external investments by land owners such as vehicles or equipment become susceptible to seizure by this policy?
Even if a consensus is agreed upon by all actors involved, the procedural process of expropriation can be problematic in practice.
Second, is the issue regarding the indebtedness of South Africa’s agricultural industry. Farm debt emanating from title deeds to secure loans already stands at over $13.7 billion, bringing into question how the government will handle indebted land.
Not compensating farmers can result in weakening banks and the accumulation of more debt if the government intends to exonerate itself from paying the bankers who are also partial owners to the land deeds.
In reality, if the South African legislature is to cover this immense cost, then the policy is deemed ineffective. Rather than expropriation with compensation, financial reparations will return to bank-investors, not farmers.
Reciting grievances and racialized killings
Aside from economic challenges, racial grievances heightened since the passing of this motion in Congress. In 2010, former ANC member, Julius Malema sang “Shoot the Farmer, Kill the Boer,” to which Genocide Watch describes as “once a revolutionary song, but now an incitement to commit genocide.”
Afterwards, Malema was convicted in violation of hate speech charges. The singing this song in public was banned. However, just seven months later, former president Jacob Zuma sang the song at an ANC event, in direct contempt of the judge’s ruling. After the court decision, Malema was forcibly removed and rejected from the ANC and created his own party known as the Economic Freedom Fighters.
EFF party leader Julius Malema asserted, “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.”
Rhetoric that has been espoused by Malema and the EFF reflects racial injustices for black citizens who have not been compensated following an era of post-Apartheid.
But not all South Africans are in favor for this bill. The Democratic Alliance party opposed the motion by emphasizing that amendments to Section 25 would result in severe consequences such as staving-off investors and disregarding inherent property rights of white Afrikaners.
Recently, Malema has been campaigning throughout the nation urging blacks to take back their land from “Dutch thugs.” Although these and other remarks may seem metaphorical, violent mobilization has drastically increased since he has uttered these controversial words.
Under the influence of Malema, actual grievances have been transformed into actions with fatal consequences. Black natives have targeted and viscously attacked farmland that was controlled by white Afrikaners through gruesome and horrific means.
According to the Transvaal Agricultural Union, last year there were 345 attacks resulting in 70 deaths — the highest death toll since 2008; in 2015 there were 318 attacks resulting in 64 deaths, and the year before there were 277 attacks resulting in 67 deaths.
The victims of these brutal assaults and homicides are often restrained and tortured with various weapons ranging from machetes to boiling and hot irons. Afterwards, victims are dragged behind vehicles and fatally shot. Female victims are typically raped and suffer from sexual assault. Farm attacks occur on a frequent basis. In just this past year alone, there have been more than 70 attacks and around 25 murders in similar raids upon white farms.
In total, between 1998 and the end of 2016, 1,848 people have been murdered in farm attacks — 1,187 farmers, 490 family members, 147 farm employees, and 24 people who happened to be visiting the farm at the time.
Although the number of attacks is an alarming statistic signifying a severe problem, the acceptance of this issue amongst government-officials is impalpable.
Violence towards white Afrikaners has deprived them of their claim to life. Farmers live in eminent fear. Tensions have arisen to such an extent that tens of thousands of white farmers are fleeing from their private properties.
When white farmers are labelled as perpetrators of injustice within the political sphere by the EFF, this type of demagoguery intends to vilify whites while justifying these farm killings. In this instance, whites are condemned for being the rightful property owners.
The price for property, peace, and prosperity
On the surface, the concept of land reform can yield benefits for the reconciliatory processes as it can theoretically address longstanding inequalities and injustice. In effect, discontinuing structural and cultural processes of violence can manifest in the form of land restitution.
Nevertheless, the issue of land inequality is only one aspect of the post-Apartheid conflict. The deeper and underlying motives of this continued conflict are expressed through acting upon moments of racial and political opportunism which are fueled by economic and racial reasons.
Although structural violence has violated the inalienable rights of black South Africans during Apartheid, the conceptualization of expropriation without compensation is not the proper course of action to remedy this error in history.
Everything has a price and nothing is truly free for anyone. As previously shown, with the implementation of this policy, there will be direct and indirect costs that produces a realistically net-negative or possibly net-neutral impact on the financial sector.
Practically speaking, this policy shall further reduce the economic institutional capacity of South Africa especially after the rapid decline of foreign direct investors and devaluing of the South African rand due to recent political instability, xenophobic trends and sheer social strife within their borders.
Principally speaking, even if this process of retribution is considered a noble cause by advocating land to the former oppressed, then why would South Africa not pay the utter price to assure peace and prosperity for all if they believe that land redistribution is the sole resolution for these actions which derive from the former enforcement of an Apartheid-state?
The answer is simple; ultimately, land redistribution can hardly resolve issues of post-Apartheid South Africa. Despite the policy prerogatives, it still fails to redress and reconcile race relations between black and white South Africans.
Taking away land from whites to appropriate it to the black population is bound to stir grievances amongst white Afrikaners who are now suffering from the transgressions of previous generations. The underlying logic is remarkably simple yet easy to miss: an offense which is done to you by a perpetrator is met with justice, yet carrying out justice creates grievances, which causes you to become a perpetrator as well.
An initial attempt to attain peace and prosperity through Nelson Mandela’s Reconciliation Day was not a proper solution but a new beginning for South Africa by opening and offering dialogues between the perpetrator and victim groups within an accountable model of governance.
Mandela sought to settle racial grievances by moving forward. His efforts should not be slaughtered in vain but the current approach must be refocused from land expropriation without compensation to an alternative method which must include compensation in exchange for land.
Even Mandela, an active socialist, was aggressively against the idea of expropriation without compensation. During his presidency he would enact the Restitution of Land Rights Act in 1994 which would require financial compensation for any land which would be repossessed from its original owners.
The current trade-off of values within the Parliament of South Africa are actively disavowing Mandela’s mandate and ideal mechanism for mutually appealing to the needs of both actor groups.
However, this vision of equity between both groups is simply under threat and preeminently set to fail if South Africa dares to remotely recount the actions of Zimbabwe and other states with restitution policies that do not ensure reparations for land redistribution.
In reality, restitution of land attempts to right a wrong done in the past at the expense of current land owners.
At the point which South Africa reaffirms their commitment to expropriation, compensation must occur and be carried out by the government in a fair and equitable way without showing favoritism to either side.
This conflict transcends material expressions of land inequality and remains within the attitudes and behaviors between black and white South Africans.
Without addressing the true disparities that South Africa faces, any amount of property shall not provide the promise of peace and prosperity for all.