No One Is Giving Back The Land, Not Even The EFF, Despite What Malema Says

An EFF government would in effect never GIVE any land to black people. It would merely give them permission to use it.


The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) under its leader Julius Malema is pushing ahead with its calls for land expropriation without compensation, but there is little detail or debate about the party's own land policies, which will actually give no land back to any individual.

The EFF led a debate on the issue in Parliament on Wednesday, slamming in particular the fact that "less than 10% of the population own more than 75% of the land".

Malema added: "... the Constitution must be changed to make it possible to own land".

The headlines following the debate focused on Malema's inflammatory statements, such as his gem about "Dutch gangsters" historically taking the land by force, or the immediately tweet-worthy: "People of South Africa, where you see a beautiful land, take it, it belongs to you."

But Malema keeps glossing over one small but important detail: his party is demanding that "the Constitution must be changed to make it possible to own land" but their own policies won't allow any South African to own land should the party be in power.

As we have written before, an EFF government would in effect never give any land to South Africans. It would merely give them permission to use it.

Its land policy states: "The state should, through its legislative capacity transfer all land to the state, which will administer and use land for sustainable-development purposes. This transfer should happen without compensation, and should apply to all South Africans, black and white." Thus the state would hold and administer all land rights on behalf of the people, and would disburse land-use licences on their behalf.

Malema and his party have become quite adept at minimising this detail, and keeping the focus squarely on the ANC's slow pace at redistributing land. But its criticisms of the ANC seem to assume they agree with the concept of individual property rights. The EFF doesn't, and this is a massive topic that should be unpacked.

When Huffington Post South African pressed him on the issue in an interview in December 2016, Malema compared land to the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC). "Who's the state? There is no state without the will of the people. When we say SABC is owned by the people, it does not mean you will literally own it, but every time you are angry [you say]: 'We own the SABC! We pay licence for the SABC!' You feel the ownership of the SABC because it belongs to the state. It's a public broadcaster."

Asked if it was not misleading to say the party would "give back the land" when they were actually going to give back USE of the land, Malema insisted it was not. "No, anything owned by the state is owned by the people. It's not misleading because the state exercises its authority through the will of the people."

Pushed for more details on why the state should be trusted with such an enormous responsibility, Malema insisted the "socialist state" could be trusted, and said the details of how much land would be leased out per individual "would be dealt with when we take over the land".

It's a troubling point. As Sipho Hlongwane has previously written:

The EFF assumes that the large majority of black people and other groups disadvantaged by apartheid and are thus the focus of redress legislation would be happy to cede their rights to individual land ownership to the state. This could very well be true in rural and tribal areas, where you might find that the majority of people would be accustomed to the patronage of traditional leaders. However, it would be unwise to assume this of South Africa's urban centres, where individual property rights have been the basis for all other social relations.

It's also becoming too easy for the EFF to criticise the ruling party's slow pace of redistribution without adequately unpacking their own policies and the drastic change it implies. It is also, despite what Malema says, misleading to tell voters you intend to "give back the land" when they will not actually receive title deeds. The devil, as always, is in the detail -- even if they are being deferred to later.


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