DA has proud record on land reform, and we reject land expropriation without compensation

Issued by Mmusi Maimane – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
12 Mar 2018 in News

The attached document sets out the party’s position on land reform. 


The Democratic Alliance supports land restitution, and we support land redistribution. We support efforts to undo the terrible legacy of forced land dispossession which still reverberates in our society today.

The most significant feature of this legacy, among many, is that it prevented black families from building intergenerational wealth by bequeathing property, which is the biggest asset most people will ever own.

More than just supporting these reform and restitution efforts, we can proudly lay claim to having the best track record of any party in South Africa in actually giving effect to this commitment where we govern.

We have a proactive, positive land reform agenda which seeks to make individuals real property owners. We envision a South Africa in which every person can own property, and that the circumstances of their birth is no impediment to them acquiring and accumulating wealth creating assets.

Where we are in government, we focus obsessively on title deed reform – which makes real home owners of those recipients of state subsidised housing who have until now not had actual ownership of the homes they live in.

Land reform projects under DA governments have a success rate six times higher than nationally, according to the national Department of Land Reform’s own information.

Any suggestion that our firm opposition to expropriation without compensation is equivalent to opposing land reform is simply nonsense.

The difference of approach is stark: Our approach seeks to make people real homeowners, and protects their right to build assets and wealth over time and hand these over to their children. This is the only way to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that Apartheid has left us. Our approach recognises that property rights, like individual rights, are indivisible. Each person’s individual rights are best protected when everyone’s rights are protected.

We believe deeply in the promise of our constitutional compact: That we can be one nation, with one future. This compact should not be tinkered with glibly, and certainly not when there is near unanimity (even among much of the ANC), that the Constitution is not an impediment to effective land reform.

The ANC once believed in the promise of our Constitutional construct too. But they have abandoned that idea altogether.

Instead, our opponents’ approach is one which has yielded only poverty and misery for the poor wherever it has been tried anywhere in the world. It is a guarantee of chaos and economic disaster.

It deliberately seeks to stoke racial tension, and by definition relies on force. It is the sound-bite, simplistic solution of the violent demagogue, and should be rejected by all South Africans of every background.

Expropriation without compensation:

Over the last two weeks, the national discourse has been dominated by the EFF’s motion in Parliament calling for the amendment of the Constitution to pave the way for the expropriation of all private property.

This motion was supported, in amended form, by the ANC. The EFF’s model calls for the state to be the “custodian” of all land, effectively the abolition of private property.

While mention of this model was excluded from the final motion, it still includes reference to a “future land tenure regime”, with no further clarity offered by either the ANC or the EFF as to what this might mean.

The Constitution also makes it clear that property does not only refer to land. The model pursued by the EFF would strip all property owners of their property – white and black South Africans alike would lose everything. Homeowners would be stripped of their homes, business owners of their businesses, innovators of their intellectual property, and more.

Beyond amending the motion, the ANC has to date not said explicitly whether they support this model or not. And if they do not, they have not said what alternative model they will pursue in amending the Constitution.

What is clear is that there is now sufficient support in Parliament to substantially erode private property rights in our Constitution.

There are some well-meaning South Africans who are always happy to give the ANC the benefit of the doubt. They believe that land expropriation will be orderly and benign.

We do not share this view. We do not believe there is any “nice” way to seize property.

We do not believe that any government should be given this power. And once the government has this power, it will be very difficult ever to take it away. Even if some people think the Ramaphosa government will handle this power responsibly, the Constitution should protect citizens against all possible future governments.

We will not wait for the ANC to attempt to clarify how they plan for this seizure to happen. It should never happen. That is the point.

Our position:

The Democratic Alliance stands implacably opposed to any abrogation of existing private property rights. Property rights are the bedrock of development and economic growth. Expropriation without compensation is state sanctioned theft, which is inimical to economic growth and development.

As I said to the President during the debate on the State of the Nation, you can having a growing, thriving economy, or you can have expropriation. But you absolutely cannot have both.

We are the party of the protection of all individual rights, cardinal among those the right to security of one’s own property and the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour.

We regard the attempt to amend the Constitution as nothing but a populist effort to scapegoat the Constitution for the failure of the ANC, over twenty years, to reform land ownership. Every expert agrees with this view. Indeed, even President Kgalema Motlanthe’s High Level Panel report underscores the point: The Constitution is not an impediment to land reform, neither is the requirement for compensation.

We reject the hate-filled racist undertones employed by the EFF and the ANC in this debate, which seeks to divide the country according to race for narrow political ends, and which seeks to de-legitimise those who disagree.

We find it unconscionable that all of the millions of recipients of state subsidised housing, (to take just one example) who are mainly-poor, mainly-black South Africans, stand to lose these houses again. These are South Africans who have just begun to emerge from the crippling economic consequences of apartheid, and now stand to have the ladder of wealth creation kicked out from beneath them again. ‘Evil’ seems truly the only way to describe such an awful proposal.

We will oppose this amendment with every tool at our disposal. We will mobilise public support behind us, and we call on all South Africans to join in our effort to defeat this Constitutional amendment – starting with signing this petition to protect our Constitution. Every person who owns property, and every person who aspires to own property, should join our effort to defeat this EFF/ANC plan.

The values on which our nation was founded, and which Nelson Mandela inspired us to follow, are now under assault. We will not hesitate to come to their defence.

We also believe the state must fulfil the Constitutional injunction to correct the injustice of forced land dispossession and diversifying the land ownership patterns in the country. These programmes should be based on the existing constitutional framework, which the government has never even nearly used to the full.

We are the only party that envisions every South African being a property owner or a business owner and having a stake in the country. We reject outright the suggestion that people cannot own property or should be permanent tenants of an all-powerful state.

We also believe strongly that citizens living on communal or tribal trust land must have absolutely certain security of tenure that is both recorded and legally enforceable.

Indeed, the one group of people that already experience expropriation without compensation in South Africa are the rural poor, especially women, who regularly have their land rights summarily changed or revoked by traditional leaders.

DA land reform:

Where the DA is in government, despite the constraints and limited scope of local and provincial government, we are addressing this issue better than any other party.

The aggressive expansion of affordable housing projects in Central Business Districts (CBDs), the rapid delivery of title deeds, share equity schemes and land reform projects in the Western Cape are but a few examples.

The DA-run Western Cape far exceeds the rest of the country in implementing land reform. The Western Cape’s land reform audit found that the provincial government’s pioneering Commodity Approach and through innovative solutions like the share equity schemes has led to the success of 62% of all land reform farms in the Western Cape. The national government’s failure rate of land reform projects is currently at 90%.

The Western Cape has also increased its budget to its implementation agency, Casidra (Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas) by almost 44% in order to speed up land reform across the agricultural sector.

We are the only party in South Africa that has focused on reforming ownership of urban land by making sure that beneficiaries of state subsidised housing have full ownership title to those homes. We have made 75 000 home owners already, and are distributing more title deeds every day we are in government.

Thousands of social housing units have been approved in the City of Cape Town which will see the spatial legacy of land dispossession addressed.

In national government, the DA would have the legal and Constitutional mandate to do what the current government has failed to do over the past 24 years.

Under a DA national government, we will achieve meaningful redress for the legacy of land dispossession by giving far more black South Africans the opportunity to be owners of both agricultural and urban land:

  • New recipients of state subsidised housing will receive full title, and past recipients of RDP homes will given full title;
  • We will make it cheaper for first time buyers to purchase homes through lowering of transfer costs;
  • We will distribute the thousands of government owned farms and fallow land, instead of treating emerging farmers as permanent tenants;
  • We will give residents of tribal land security of tenure that is recorded and legally enforceable;
  • We will allocate adequate budgets to settle all remaining land restitution claims, and for land reform purposes, on the basis of the Constitutional guidelines for compensation; and
  • Anyone who wants to farm will receive the support they need to be successful, through the transference of skills and by providing access to the resources and markets they need to sell their goods.

All of this is attainable without amending the Constitution.