Two heads are better than one in the land reform debate – Stephens

Chuck Stephens from the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership has recently put forward the idea that South African farmers should help the land reform process by volunteering to share or give away parts of their farms. He called it “shrinking the cup.” And in a subsequent article he expanded that idea, calling for voluntary equalisation in South Africa. Stephens drew a lot of flak on social media, an area where people don’t pull any punches anymore and has been called a commie, a neo-Marxist and somebody even asked if he is an American; and here is a new intellectual insult, “a depraved sophist snake.” But there has also been more constructive comments. He insists he is none of the names attributed to him and supports the philosophy of Moses; Stephens does work for Archbishop Desmond Tutu after all. He suggests a proper reading of the amendments to the Constitution that enables land expropriation without compensation. Stephens also comments on the challenges of “Madame” Helen Zille after so many of the black leaders in the Democratic Alliance have jumped ship. The heat that the debate on land reform is generating is an indication of how contentious and dangerous the issue of land is. The negotiated settlement that led to the peaceful 1994 elections in South Africa is probably the best indicator of where the solution of the land reform debate lies. It will have to take compromises from both sides; the side that shouts loudly that “whites stole our land” and the other side that stokes tempers by claiming that South Africa will become another Zimbabwe. – Linda van Tilburg

Two heads are better than one

By Chuck Stephens*

Thanks to those who took time to blog in response to my two recent articles in BizNews, advocating for voluntary equalisation in terms of access to farm land – to make space for poor and unemployed youth. Not all responses were favourable, but it should be just about as easy to get such a Bill through South Africa’s parliament, as it has been to get a Brexit deal through the mother-of-all-parliaments. South Africans seem to be as polarised about Land Reform as the British are about leaving or remaining.

In fact, some of the negative responses got a bit carried away. Paul lumped me in with the “commies”, perhaps because of my warning about the Red Tide rising? Well, with Mashaba on his way out the door and whites taking back full control of the DA, mark my words… The DA dropped five seats in the 2019 elections, and the Freedom Front Plus picked those up, and one more – six in all. Meanwhile the EFF rose by 19 seats. Watch this space in 2021. “The Madame” is not going to recover all that lost ground anytime soon.

John actually called me a “neo-Marxist”. The “M” in my line of thinking stands for Moses, not Marx. One of the greatest-ever sons of the African soil. A leader whose influence is still felt strongly not just in Africa, but around the world. Remember some of his little bytes like “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not kill”? They have endured for 3,800 years. Marx hasn’t hit 380 yet. By that time, his advice should be all but forgotten. No, my friends, I am a neo-Mosaic, not a neo-Marxist.

Geoff asked “Is Chuck an American?” Ouch. Not on your life. I was born in Africa, and have lived here most of my life. Yes I have lived overseas too, but never in the USA. And I have lived in six African countries, including South Africa where I have lived longer than in any other country, anywhere. There was a faint scent of xenophobia on Geoff’s question, but I’ll let that pass.

I don’t think that Sampie Terreblanche was an American either. He was born and bred an Afrikaner.

Aside from calling me a “depraved sophist snake”, Ursus mentions a “legitimate means of redress and redistribution in the Constitution” and suggests that we stick to it. Has anyone actually read that gazetted Constitutional Amendment yet? It is a very long document, sixty pages in all, in the Government Gazette of Dec 21st 2018. Check it out on-line. On the 37th page comes half a page on which land qualifies to be expropriated with nil compensation:

  1. Land occupied by a labour tenant;
  2. Land held purely for speculation;
  3. Land already owned by a state entity;
  4. Abandoned land;
  5. “Where the market value of the land is equivalent to, or less than, the present value of direct state investment or subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the land.”

Admitting that I can hardly get my head around the “legaleze” in point number 5, I asked myself, “Is that what all the commotion is about? Is that what they mean by EWC?” It’s like throwing a dog a bone.

How could you pay someone who abandoned their land if no one knows their whereabouts? Is this what the ANC means by “shrinking the cup”? Are you kidding me? This makes the JUBILEE LAND BANK proposal sound really significant, by comparison. Radical ecclesiastical thinking (RET).

Or better yet – do both.

So I liked one suggestion that came in, instead of a land-tithe of one-tenth of every farm. What if ten farmers get together and draw lots? But in this lottery, you don’t win – you lose your land. One out of ten farms gets donated – to “shrink the cup”. The nine other farmers in the circle agree to stand behind the farmer whose farm passes in escrow to the JUBILEE LAND BANK. Making room for job creation.

Maybe those ten farmers want to start a processing plant in their area? So the tenth farmer gets to run that agri-business on their joint behalf. This was some out-of-the-box thinking that would cut some corners and go straight to the chase.

Land Reform is being hotly debated, and the polarisation is getting more and more dangerous. Even government’s Anti-Land-Invasion-Unit is using Casspers now. Whereas good leadership look for ways to bring opposite poles together. There is no point in whites trying to win this tug-of-war over access to land. They are out-voted before the voting even begins.

Politicians think of the next election. Statesmen think of the next generation. Nkruma once said that Africa does not need to look to the Left, or to the Right. We need to look ahead, to the Future, and that is the way we are pointing on <>.

  • Chuck Stephens, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership.

Response from community member David Gowar

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