Are supporters of EWC doing their part?

What are the goals of the ANC and EFF’s expropriation without compensation policy (EWC)? It cannot be the restoration of stolen land since provision for a restitution programme already exists in the Constitution and the current restitution programme has settled more than 95% of the claims lodged by claimants. If the scope of this relatively successful programme needs to be widened in the interests of justice, then it is government that needs to bring that case. 

Could it be that we need EWC to ensure proportional land ownership, where no South African owns either too little (or no land) or too much land relative to everyone else? I decided to look at this second rationale from the point of view of trying to help the most ardent supporters of EWC to see if they are playing their part in this endeavour.

The biggest supporters of EWC in parliament are the EFF and ANC since the only reason we are going through the current constitutional review process is because the ANC passed a resolution at their Nasrec conference and the EFF tabled a motion in parliament initiating the process. I wanted to see how much land these selfless MPs owned and if any of it could be immediately transferred to poor landless people in the interests of equitable land ownership.

To calculate how much land is owned by members of the EFF and ANC in parliament , I examined the National Assembly’s register of member’s interests as well as media sources. From the sources available, I could find an answer  for only 102 members (6 of them from the EFF, amongst which, interestingly, there are no properties listed under Julius’ name, only trusts). What I found is surely going to make each of the 102 happy because, indeed, there is something they can do to ensure proportionality in land ownership.

The total area of the land registered at the deeds office is 1,142,232.76 square kilometres (94% of SA’s surface area) according to the Dept. of Rural Development and Land Reform, with the outstanding 6% being trust land in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. The 102 MPs own 0.005% of this registered land. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but these MPs make up only 0.00018% of the country’s population of close to 56 million people.

This means that these 102 people own 28 times more land than is due their share in proportion to the size of the population of South Africa. Another way to put this is that if we all wanted to own as much land as the average owned by these representatives of ours, we would need to somehow build another 27 South Africas – and, given our record, such a new building project will take a while.

To put this in context, the average RDP house is 50 square metres, that means we could build more than a million new RDP houses on the land owned by these 102 parliamentarians, not to mention those whose ownership is not listed by area and those who own their property through trusts (like the Commander-In-Chief, Julius Malema). Another way to visualise this would be to imagine how many Santiago Bernabeu’s (the home of Real Madrid Club de Fútbol) you could build on the land owned by these MPs. The answer is 8,151 since the Bernabeu is 105m x 68m according to the club’s website.

To be fair, even though we took the average, these stats for land ownership are not evenly distributed among the politicians themselves. There is one man who owns much more land than anyone else or even all the others combined: Cyril Ramaphosa. If you examine the publicly available numbers, the president of the ANC owns 88% of the land owned by these 102 politicians, that is more than 7 times the ownership of the rest of his colleagues combined.

This is interesting in the context of Ramaphosa’s speech at the 8th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture where he said "We cannot speak of true freedom when 10% of the population has more wealth than 90% combined" as reported on News24. Ramaphosa is certainly a part of this 10% and there’s nothing stopping him from redistributing his own wealth immediately.

It is rational and moral to expect that anyone who believes in EWC for the purposes of achieving equitable distribution of land should first apply this principle to the land they own themselves. To do otherwise is just wrong. Property-owners in South Africa should have at least as many rights over their land as their representatives do. I personally don’t have a problem with politicians owning so much land but the rhetoric coming from parliament indicates that certain politicians do have a problem with us, the people, owning property.

It is time parliamentarians stop being hypocrites and either leave property-owners alone or give up their own property. Attacking the institution of private property creates one founded on envy, poverty and violence. Surely it is in everyone’s interest, even MPs, to respect the institution of private property which is required if we are to promote a healthy society built on initiative, wealth-creation and peace.

Mpiyakhe Dhlamini is an intern at the Free Market Foundation

This article was first published in City Press on 19 October 2018

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