ANC rejects the 'land reform' that isn't

March 27, 1991

By Jacqui Kavanagh

The African National Congress has expressed "outrage and deep disappointment" at the South African government's white paper on land reform, tabled in parliament on March 12. The paper fails to address the crucial issue of land redistribution to the dispossessed black majority and leaves the way open for racial segregation to continue.

According to the ANC, "its effect is to codify the present state of dispossession under the cover of free market proposals".

Despite government claims that "extensive consultations, deliberations and negotiations" had taken place, neither the ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions nor any of the millions of victims of land dispossession were consulted.

Hailed by President de Klerk as a "historic turning point", the document proposes the repeal of the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, which reserve 87% of land for whites, and the Group Areas Act of 1966, which racially segregates residential areas. While removing the formal racial conditions of land ownership, the legislation would economically institutionalise the white monopoly of land.

Full ownership will be given to 300,000 people with registered leasehold rights or deeds of grant. Tenure rights on a further 1 million residential sites could be upgraded to ownership eventually. Up to 470,000 hectares of state-owned land will be made available for black farming settlements and aid packages previously available only to white farmers extended to blacks.

But nothing would be done to redress the systematic theft of land from the black population since 1948. To make room for white farmers and residents, millions of blacks were forcibly uprooted and banished to bantustans — pockets of the worst land in the country, where squalor, overcrowding, unemployment and lack of facilities prevailed.

The Transvaal Rural Action Committee said in a statement: "We feel it is outrageous that the brutal legacies of the forced removals policy which dispossessed and impoverished over three million people over the last 30 years is being entrenched in this legislation".

The ANC in its response said that "until the present government recognises the reasons for the present situation and commits itself to rectifying the wrongs of the past, no attempted land reform can ever hope to win legitimacy or credibility from the majority of the people.

"In the white paper, the government takes the geography of apartheid as its starting point and explicitly refuses to deal with the landlessness and dispossession that is the direct legacy of apartheid's policy of forced removal and bantustan consolidation."

The White Paper allows local authorities to draw up by-laws to maintain "norms and standards" in communities under their control. According to the ANC, "it perpetuates racist perceptions and practices and so maintains the situation where there is one set of s for whites and one for blacks ... The notion of 'standards' becomes a thinly veiled protection of privilege."

Another section states, "Those who have already reached a high standard are entitled to a higher order of services and to the maintenance of values appropriate to their lifestyle".

Blatant racism is also revealed in the section of the White Paper which states, "Town planning and the expansion of towns will be regulated in accordance with the needs and level of sophistication of the community concerned". The ANC asks, who will determine this level of sophistication and on what basis?

Laws to prevent racial discrimination in private contracts will not be enacted. Nor will racial discrimination be legislated against in the rental market.

The ANC statement concludes that real land reform means land redistribution. The gross insufficiency of the White Paper highlights the urgency for negotiations to get under way and for the creation of a constitution that will be able to serve the real interests of all the people of South Africa.

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