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Land Bill fiasco: An indictment of South Africa’s political parties

FILE – For the multitudes deprived of their land, Tuesday December 7 was a dark day in history when sanity did not prevail as was hoped when Parliament convened to discuss the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill, writes Professor Bheki Mngomezulu. File photo.

FILE – For the multitudes deprived of their land, Tuesday December 7 was a dark day in history when sanity did not prevail as was hoped when Parliament convened to discuss the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill, writes Professor Bheki Mngomezulu. File photo.

Published Dec 11, 2021

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OPINION: For the multitudes deprived of their land, Tuesday December 7 was a dark day in history when sanity did not prevail as was hoped when Parliament convened to discuss the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill, writes Professor Bheki Mngomezulu.

Tuesday 7 December 2021 will go down as one of the key moments in South African history. For some, this will be a day to celebrate; for others it will be the darkest day in the country’s beleaguered past.

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As parliament convened to discuss the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill, many South Africans were optimistic that sanity would prevail among the country’s politicians. There was hope that the misguided political decisions taken by political parties during the 2021 Local Government Election would subside for the sake of the multitudes who were deprived of their land.

Had this submission passed, it would have given parliament the necessary mandate to revise Section 25 of the Constitution. For this submission to pass, it needed no less than 267 votes. However, only 204 votes were secured – falling short by 63 votes. Al Jama-ha joined the 200 ANC members who attended the session. Most opposition parties rejected the motion for various reasons.

One cannot help but ask some critical questions. Among them are the following five: Did opposition parties oppose the motion in the interest of the country or in order to satisfy their own political egos?

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Was their stance based on substance or was it a continuation of the “ganging up” resolution they took against the ANC during the 2021 local government elections? Do politicians understand why they are in parliament or do they see this a “right” as opposed to a “privilege”? Who is the winner in this decision? Where to from here?

Perhaps, before addressing these questions, it is important to remind the reader that the process began in 2018 when the EFF tabled a motion in parliament about the need to expropriate land without compensation. The motion passed, especially after it was supported by the ANC which has the highest number of MPs. However, it was felt that for this goal to be achieved, Section 25 of the Constitution needed to be amended. Tuesday’s report was a culmination of the four-year consultation process aimed at putting the 2018 motion in action.

What is surprising is that even the EFF, which tabled the motion in 2018, opposed Tuesday’s report. To give credence to their decision, they reverted to “diction”, that is, the choice and usage of words. The EFF’s main contention was that the ANC used the phrase “nil compensation” as opposed to “without compensation”. This might sound like children’s play but, unfortunately, this was the main reason for the party’s rejection of this motion.

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It did not come as a surprise when parties like the DA and the FF+ opposed the motion. They have been vehemently opposed to this idea from the start. This should not come as a surprise since most of their members are the beneficiaries of the black people’s deprivation of their land though the 1913 Land Act and subsequent legislation like that of 1936.

What came as a surprise was when even black dominated political parties like the IFP, ACDP, UDM, and ATM also registered their opposition to the report and the proposed motion. Surely, they had their own reasons. What remains unclear, though, is if those reasons had any substance. This is what triggers the five questions posed above, which I address below.

I am doubtful if political parties opposed the motion in the interest of the country. It appears to me that they wanted to satisfy their political egos. This links directly to the second question. In the local government elections, parties ganged up against the ANC, not based on principle or substance, nor to put people first.

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Instead, they did so simply to satisfy their political egos. Some were not even shy to say that they would vote for “a ghost” as long as that ghost stood against the ANC. Obviously, this has nothing to do with South Africans and their needs.

The third question about the reason for politicians to be in parliament is the most important. If our politicians see parliament as the platform to settle political scores, then our country is in deep trouble.

Representative democracy dictates that those who are elected to go to parliament should serve the interests of the electorate, not theirs. Our politicians seem to be oblivious to this basic principle.

To answer the penultimate question, the winners are the perpetrators who stole the land. As the ANC and opposition parties blame one another on who did wrong, those who stole the land celebrate.

The last question is equally important. The ANC has to go back and check where things went wrong.

Equally, those who opposed the motion should do self-introspection and check if the decision they took was warranted. Parliament as a whole should reflect on this incident. The reality is that politicians have failed the masses of South Africa!

* Bheki Mngomezulu is professor of political studies and deputy dean of research at the University of the Western Cape.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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