Yesterday between 22:30 and 24:00 we listened to BLF National Convener, Andile Mngxitama and Dr Sithole the Director of Public Service and Land Research, speak land on Power FM.
The interview started against the backdrop of Tracy Chapman’s “(t)alking ’bout a revolution” and the line that lingered into the interview from its lyrics was “finally the tables are beginning to turn”. This was the starting thrust of Victor Africa the interviewer which prefixed the contrary adage that 22 years into democracy and land in SA is not yet returned. He asked if the new Expropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly allows for proper redress of land since it says that if land is for public use it may be expropriated. It’s thus far clear, he intimated, that while everyone is equal before the law, the question of land remains elusive.
Andile Mngxitama started by responding to people’s resistance via fire relating to land, remembering specifically what happened in Nelspruit about five years ago and in Hamanskraal about 2 weeks ago. He invoked the wisdom of John the Baptist in Mathew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”
A Fanonian moment filled the airwaves and one can’t help but go the Mathew 3:11. It’s clear from the following extract how Mathew 3:10 and 3:12 provides the fuel and the resultant ash for 3:11 respectively:
“The Mission of John the Baptist
…10 The ax lies ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but afterme will come One more powerful than I, whosesandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.12 His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”
This was a fitting preamble to BLF’s National Convener urging a focus on the original colonial crime of 1652 where whites arrived here, stole the land and reduced blacks to slaves. He pointed out that there were two responses to this, those who accepted western modernity and hence the conditions of oppression (the Amagqobhoka) and those who resisted it (the Amaqaba). The ANC accepted the terms of western modernity which culminated in initially the adoption of the Freedom Charter and ultimately in the post 1994 neo colonial, neo liberal settlement that saw the abandonment of the land question. Robert Sobukwe left the ANC to form the PAC on the basis that blacks can’t give colonialists any rights to land before the land is returned. There’s clearly a contradiction between the provisions of the Freedom Charter and expropriation of all land without compensation. The Freedom Charter has locked blacks out of any possibility of land return. 22 years into democracy and only 8% of the land has been returned at the cost R50Bn of people’s money. We must start from the premise that all land in SA is stolen property and that the land belongs to blacks, all of it!
Mngxitama clarified that the Expropriation Bill does nothing new. It says what the law already holds being that the state can expropriate for public use without consent. It furthermore leaves the issue of “just and equitable compensation” in the hands of the courts. In this regard our courts have already decided on the the issue of “just and equitable compensation” and to this end concluded that the market value of the land must be used in arriving at compensation for the expropriated. This brings us back to the point that there is currently no policy by government for land return.
The only solution, the BLF leader urged, is for our people to organise and take back the land. There’s currently a strong desire in the psyche of blacks to take back the land. The current political arrangement doesn’t make land distribution possible so we have no alternative but to take it back by any means necessary. We see some people and organizations talking only about occupying municipal land. Take the EFF, it says whatever depending on who it’s audience is. When in front of blacks it says we must take back the land without compensation. When it’s in front of whites, it allays their fears and says we will only expropriate land that you don’t want to use. We must reject this. It plays into the deliberate strategy of not confronting the white land thieves and the dispossession of blacks as a people.
We have the ANC filling up the FNB stadium with a 80000 strong crowd. We have the EFF filling the Orlando stadium with 40000 people. We have only 35000 whites owning 80% of the land yet with these numbers, which are far in excess of this white minority, these organizations have not moved with the necessary political will on taking back the land. We must not believe any political party or politician who says “vote for us now, we will return the land later”. They will not deliver. The message of BLF is take the land now! The Freedom Charter and the Expropriation Bill are contradictory to land expropriation. The Freedom Charter and the Expropriation Bill secure white interests – having been written by whites in the first place. Also their content is evidence of this. The message put by Mngxitama is clear – “(l)et us go directly to the whites and take back what is ours”.
Dr Sithole called inter alia for serious intellectual work, promulgation of responsible law and clear articulation of land so as to direct a way forward before we can even think about taking back the land. To this end she intimated that we draw lessons from the Zimbabwean experience of land return that attracted economic sanctions which in turn plunged the country into a crisis. She hinted further about how the downgrading of the country’s economic status by rating agencies like Standard & Poor (in the event of blacks taking back the land) would destroy the country’s economy.
Mngxitama was quick to locate the thinking of Dr Sithole in the category of the Amagqobhoka who accept western modernity and refuse to correct the colonial theft of land in a fundamental way. He pointed out Sithole’s omission to acknowledge who caused the crisis in Zimbabwe and to this end imperialism’s strategy of economic terrorism in a bid to bully Zimbabwe into submission. He praised Zimbabwe for standing firm and proud and defeating the forces of imperialism so that today people have their land back. Moreover, Dr Sithole’s inability, or is it reluctance, to see the role of the rating agencies as part of the machinery of imperialism to secure and perpetuate it’s own agenda is disappointing.
There was general consensus by all participating in the show including the callers and social media participants that all land in SA is stolen land. Most participants also agreed that we must take back the stolen land with other voices calling for restraint in the line suggested by Dr Sithole.
In closing the gospel of John the Baptist, Mathew 3:11 lingered.
ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF THE BLACK FIRST LAND FIRST MOVEMENT
8 June 2016
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