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Wolpe Lectures & Reviews July - December 2005



Wolpe Lectures July- December 2005

After the Interregnum: International Aid in the Service of Security Alan Fowler 1 December 2005

Talking to the Ancestors: National heritage, the Freedom Charter and nation-building in South Africa in 2005 Raymond Suttner 2 November 2005

Regional resistance and solidarity: SA companies and African workers in Southern Africa' Darlene Miller 6 October

The struggle for Zimbabwe: Contesting the meaning of liberation Wilf Mhanda (Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform) 29 September

Slow Delivery in South Africa’s Land Reform Programme: “The property clause revisited”Lungisile Ntsebeza 25 August

Unions and social movements in South Africa - Will the twain ever meet? Dinga Sikwebu 4 August



Talking to the Ancestors: National heritage, the Freedom Charter and nation-building in South Africa in 2005
Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture, to be presented by Raymond Suttner in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, 1, 2 and 3 November 2005

Introduction
I am honoured to deliver this lecture. I think of Harold Wolpe as having died very young. This is because like many others, I expected and hoped he would continue to contribute as he had done for over two decades towards enriching our public and academic debate. Although his academic career started relatively late in life, he made a substantial contribution, which evoked much controversy. Although often critical of the paradigms of the ANC-led liberation movement, his work enjoyed respect. It was recognised that he did not dabble but pursued research problems with rigour. Whether or not one agreed he had to be taken seriously.

I thank the Harold Wolpe Memorial trust for inviting me and for their efforts in stimulating public debate. I see this paper as part of that work and by no means providing any final answers.

In one of his later works, Wolpe spoke of one of his main objectives being ‘to show how, in variant ways, concepts widely employed close off the concrete investigations of issues relevant to political analysis.’ (1988,2). In some respects, this paper has a similar objective or is informed by such an objective in that South African political discourse, especially in the scholarly community is suffused with concepts and modes of characterisation, dichotomisation and other processes, all of which close off investigation. Instead of being deployed to discover layers and textures of meanings, it will be argued in the context of this paper, many of the concepts block off such investigation.

This talk is a dialogue with our ancestors. Heritage is the legacy of our ancestors. They have left monuments and various sites as well as the memory of their lives. What they did, the ideas, which they propagated, is part of what remains with us. I am dealing with that, but I am also going to refer to unacknowledged knowledge, in some cases transmitted through people communicating with ancestors. So in a sense while I do not dialogue directly with ancestors I am entering a dialogue acknowledging both of these types of knowledge, one of which operates not just with a legacy but in the case of many Africans with a daily influence.

What precisely is meant by heritage and how it differs from history is controversial. In general, however, it refers to an inheritance left to individuals or in this case a people. Now the extent to which a heritage is national in the sense of being accepted as such by every single individual may differ. But that does not mean it is not a national heritage. There are a variety of sites and monuments and individuals that have meaning for a section of our people but are nevertheless treated as national monuments or parts of our heritage. Whatever their controversiality they are still treated as heritage, the property of the people as a whole, even if sections of the people attach more meaning and value to certain places or people and some attach little if any.

This means that what one calls heritage or national heritage comprise on the one hand various naturally beautiful or physically significant sites to which little controversy attaches and on the other hand contested phenomena. Insofar as some elements of this heritage have contested meanings we should possibly be talking of multiple heritages of different sections of the population.

I think this notion of speaking of heritage in the plural is true of a number of questions where we sometimes use the singular –for example indigenous knowledge whereas there are many forms of indigenous knowledge and these cannot be easily contained within systems because they in fact interact with other knowledges, indigenous and non-indigenous (See Pottier et al, 2003). In fact the debate around knowledge, which is part of our heritage, is also often framed within a notion of a dichotomy between what is science and that which is indigenous. The assumption is that notions of science are universal and what is local is necessarily unscientific and one takes note of it very much as an anthropological curiosity, often frozen in time. This is not something engendered purely by European ‘experts’ but in our country by many of the purported local Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) specialists amongst the African community. Again the use of binary opposites- in this case indigenous versus scientific knowledge- is one of the common barriers to understanding that is however prevalent in much of our scholarship.

In general, we need to be wary in dealing with the nation and its heritages in speaking in the singular or using dichotomies/binary opposites, like feminism versus national liberation or liberation versus democracy, amongst others that have a bearing on building a nation. It is primarily in the academic literature that one finds these prison houses, which dichotomies and onesidedness amount to. But it is also found in government discourse, for example, in talk of ‘two economies’ when they are in fact inextricably bound to one another and in using this particular dichotomy is one not taking us back to a paradigm that belongs to a less transformative discourse than we need or purport to have as our national vision?

Despite acknowledging the claims of many sites or peoples to being a part of our national heritage there are, I will argue, nevertheless, certain sites or documents or people where claims to be treated as national heritage, are more warranted in a broader sense than in others.
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Retail workers in Mozambique and Zambia
Darlene Miller's Wolpe Lecture, University of KwaZulu Natal, 6 October 2005

Our investigation into the long-term dynamics of world labor will thus be on the lookout for…the struggles of newly emerging working classes that are successively made and strengthened as an unintended outcome of the development of historical capitalism, even as old working class are being unmade (Silver: 20).

South African multinationals in Southern Africa are opening up new possibilities for regional trade unionism. With South Africa’s democratisation in the 1990s, pent-up capital in South Africa expanded northwards into the Southern African region – including the 14 countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In contrast with historical patterns, South African multinational companies expanded further northwards beyond their traditional trading partners in Southern Africa into countries north of Africa. These South African multinationals have brought new economic investments into stagnant African economies and provided an impetus to economic growth.

The impact of these South African multinationals on their foreign locales has been significant. As new shopping centres, fast food chains, banks, refurbished and new manufacturing plants have been opened, local environments have registered the new foreign investment in different ways. While governments have welcomed foreign investment, workers have welcomed their new workplaces with a mixture of optimism and resistance. South African multinationals are agents of a new kind of regionalism that has opened up new possibilities for workers and their trade unions in Southern Africa.

In a few workplaces, a new regional imaginary has emerged amongst workers at these new, foreign firms. These firms are unleashing a regional geographic imaginary that entails a set of ‘regional claims’ to the South African company. The ability of these ‘regional claims’ to translate into regional trade union solidarity, however, is limited by the uneven development of trade unions in the region. Drawing on the case study of workers at Shoprite, a South African retail multinational, in Zambia and Mozambique, this article shows that South Africa is a central reference point and regional standard-bearer for workers at these firms. While workers at Shoprite in Mozambique have been unable to mount a successful strike against the company, workers in Zambia have organized militant national strikes, regenerating their trade union leadership in the retail sector. The stronger South African trade union movement, on the other hand, has had little resources to harness this new regional political opportunity into a combined challenge to South African capital at the regional level, given its defensive national stance.
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Miscarriage of hope and aspirations: Zimbabwe
Wilfred Mhanda 's Wolpe Lecture, University of KwaZulu Natal, 29 September 2005



Introduction
Zimbabwe was reduced to a colony in 1890 by Rhodes' invasion force dubbed
the pioneer column and by the subsequent concomitant acts of brutal
repression, dispossession and destruction of pre-colonial power structures,
African religion and values. The people of Zimbabwe heroically resisted
these unprovoked acts of aggression and desperately sought to restore
sovereignty over their resources , their freedom and dignity. The resistance
stretched over decades finally assuming the form of a national liberation
war particularly in the 1970s. The purpose of the war was articulated as a
struggle for self-determination, democracy, freedom, social justice, human
dignity and peace. These encapsulated the hopes and aspirations of the
indigenous African people of Zimbabwe.

The national liberation struggle
The initial resistance against colonialism sought to restore the status ante
ie the restoration of the sovereignty of the people of Zimbabwe over their
country and resources as well as their freedom and human dignity. However, with the progress of time this increasingly became an unrealistic
proposition at least in the short to medium term, given the monopolisation of force and institutionalisation of systematic repression by the colonial authority. The leit motif of the colonizing authority was the plundering of
the country's resources for the benefit of international monopolies and their imperial masters. This could not be realized without the subjugation of the people of Zimbabwe. This set the stage for racist repression and the
preservation of settler privileges as the pillar for the sustenance of
Britain's imperial interests.

In view of the overwhelming odds against them, the African people resigned
themselves to localised resistance based on non conformity and non
cooperation. The white settler authority proceeded to progressively
institutionalise an arsenal of repression buttressed in racist legislation
to entrench the white settler minority privileges and safeguard the
economic interests of their imperial masters. The colonial authorities went
on to establish mines and set up industries that led to urbanisation. This
added a further dimension to the struggle of the African people of Zimbabwe.

They no longer had only to contend with forced evictions from prime
agricultural land and dispossessions of their livestock in the rural areas,
but with the brutal exploitation of their labour and dehumanising working
conditions as well. This was superimposed on forced labour on railway and
road infrastructure and taxation to induce rural to urban migration to
provide cheap labour for the mines and factories. Furthermore, and with far
reaching implications for the future, the up to this point relatively
unstructured African society gave birth to a working class and the petit
bourgeoisie in addition to the peasant subsistence farmers residing in the
now re-designated African reserves and the so called tribal trust lands.

The foregoing development engendered a struggle on two fronts ie the urban front for the emerging working class, the struggle for better wages and the rural front for the peasant farmers in defence of their land rights and
livestock. As had happened elsewhere throughout the world, the struggle by the working class soon gave rise to organised resistance in the form of strikes in the mid 1940s. The promulgation of the Land and Animal Husbandry Act of 1950 saw the peasant farmers rise up in sporadic acts of defiance and non cooperation characterised by isolated attacks on dip tanks.

With these fronts of struggles having taken shape, it was now time for the
petit bourgeoisie to enter the stage and articulate their grievances and
provide leadership. This in turn gave rise to the birth of African
Nationalism through the re-awakening of national consciousness engendered
by the struggles on the two fronts. This development coincided with the end
of the Second World War that spawned a wave of struggles by the world's
oppressed peoples for their self determination.

Besides providing leadership and articulating the grievances of the workers
and peasants, the petit bourgeoisie had its own characteristic
pre-occupations ie the struggle for racial equality in response to the
rampant racial discrimination that permeated the social fabric of Rhodesian
society. The petit bourgeoisie cum African nationalist leaders wanted to be
treated as equal partners to the white settlers in view of their higher
level of education and skills and administrative training.

The quest for respect and equal treatment by the petit bourgeoisie was
paramount to them and transcended all other considerations such as the
exploitation of the workers and the evictions and dispossessions affecting
the peasantry. This attitude of the petit bourgeoisie, emanating from its
class nature, gave rise to the dichotomy of world outlook between the petit
bourgeoisie on the one hand and the struggling workers and peasants on the
other that plagued the national liberation struggle from beginning to end.

The petit bourgeoisie were, above everything else, desirous of being treated and accepted as equals by the white settler minority whereas the struggle of the masses ie the workers and peasants was more fundamental and driven by the desire for justice and self-determination as their assurance policy for social justice. Theirs was in essence a democratic struggle in contra-distinction to the reformist approach of the petit bourgeoisie. The workers and peasants hated the white settlers on account of their oppressive and exploitative system whereas the petit bourgeoisie was more concerned about being elevated to the status of the white settlers. Herein lay the seeds for the miscarriage of the hopes and aspirations of the
liberation struggle.

The independent emergence of the nationalist struggle that was driven by the internal objective conditions within Zimbabwe characterised by colonisation and capitalist exploitation of the workers and the dispossession of the peasantry soon fell under the international orbit of the world people's struggle against imperialism. This enabled the nationalist leadership to better articulate the objectives of their struggle to conform with a more progressive form characterised by demands for national independence based on universal suffrage. This notwithstanding, the nationalist leadership was prepared to settle for far less than that1 .

The articulation of the objectives of the national liberation struggle
however brought with it its own problems. Rhodesia had never experienced
direct rule since 1890 as to all intents and purposes, the British South
Company and successive white settler governments had run the country without any reference to the British Government. In 1923, Rhodesia became a self governing colony in terms of the promulgation of the Responsible Government Act of 1923. The repression and exploitation of the African people was perpetrated by the white settler authority in Rhodesia albeit primarily for the benefit of monopoly capital and Britain the imperial power. This distinctive colonial feature set Rhodesia apart from Britain's other African colonies that fell under direct British rule.

Failure to appreciate the significance of this peculiar colonial feature led
the African nationalists to commit a major strategic blunder with far
reaching consequences for the trajectory of the national liberation struggle
and its outcome. It was against this backdrop that Rhodesia witnessed the
emergence of two competing nationalisms - white and black nationalism. The black nationalists sought, demanded and counted on Britain's support in their struggle against the white settler minority which was a contradiction
in terms given the essence and nature of imperialism. The white settlers on their part demanded from Britain full independence to run the affairs of the country although in essence this was already the case since 1923. The position taken by the African nationalists vis a vis the role of Britain in their struggle against white settler minority oppression fundamentally compromised the struggle against imperialism and helped steer Britain into a strategic position to influence political developments in Rhodesia and safeguard the interests of monopoly capital with the overt support and blessing of the African nationalists.

This misguided and parochial position adopted by the nationalists set the
stage for the subsequent unprincipled compromise and betrayal of the ideals
of the national liberation struggle and the aspirations of the African
people for self-determination at Lancaster House in 1979. Britain could not
have wished for a better outcome as it ensured the entrenchment of its
imperial interests in Zimbabwe and for that with blessing of the Patriotic
Front that represented the interests of the fighting masses of Zimbabwe.

The Lancaster House Agreement served to underscore the divergence in the interests of the nationalist leadership on the one hand and the broad masses of the people on the other. To the masses of Zimbabwe, the national liberation war was being waged for the attainment of self-determination and full democratic rights whilst for the nationalists, the war was essentially a pressure mechanism to induce political negotiations for the transfer of power to them.

To the African masses, the attainment of political power was to serve as the springboard for first the transformation of political power itself and state institutions to serve the interests of the majority and subsequently of the society to ensure the realisation of democracy, freedom and social justice.
In essence, political power was to serve as the tool for the political,
economic, social and cultural empowerment of the black majority. Power had to be democratised to ensure the realisation of these objectives that corresponded to the fulfilment of the aspirations of the national liberation struggle.

To the African nationalists, the pursuit and attainment of power was an end
in itself. They had nothing against the nature of power and state
institutions in their prevailing form that had been tailored to serve the
interests of monopoly capital and the white settler minority. This reduces
the unfolding scenario to a disjuncture and incompatible political
objectives characterised by a quest for decolonisation without rocking the
boat by the nationalists and aspirations for self-determination, freedom,
democracy and social justice by the black majority.

The reality of independence
The conquest of power by the nationalists who had been transformed overnight into a petit bourgeois elite at independence, put them in a position to shape the political discourse of the new Zimbabwe that marked a radical departure from the originally declared aims and goals of the national liberation struggle encompassing democratic convictions and socio-economic transformation. They promptly abandoned the cultivation of democratic virtues and respect for human that had been hitherto, the bedrock of
'struggle culture'. The nationalists had become reformists and independent Zimbabwe became a mirror image of the oppressive system that the liberation struggle had sought to destroy and transform. This marked a direct transition from colonialism to neo-colonialism.

The peoples basic freedoms became as constrained as they were during the
colonial era. Political intolerance characterized the new political culture
with opposition and dissent were elevated to hostility, antagonism and
enmity. The ruthless suppression of ZAPU soon after independence and later
of the new opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the private media and civil society activists bear eloquent testimony to this. The distinction between the party, the government and the state became
increasingly blurred. Tendencies towards autocratic rule took a turn for the
worse and the so called national and sovereign interests became
justification for all kinds of authoritarian excesses. Witness justification
for the violence associted with the so-called 'fast track land reform' a
political ploy that in the end enriched the elite through multiple farm
ownership. Loyalty to the party and its leadership were now traded for the
loyalty to principles and ideals of the liberation war era.

The new political elite was however careful not reveal their true colours as
they were fully conscious of the contradiction between popular expectations
and what they practiced. Conscious efforts were therefore made to demobilize and de-politicise the masses in order to ensure stability and maintenance of law and order. To cope with the emergent conflict, they became masters at the situational application of rhetoric2 . The attribution of Zimbabwe's economic misfortunes to imperialist machinations and conspiracies is a case in point. The opposition MDC and civil society organizations are portrayed as agents and stooges of the West. The Zimbabwe government has whipped up anti-imperialist sentiments so as to mobilize regional and developing countries to rise up in its defence against Zimbabwe's international censure for human rights abuses. Total control of the media and suppression of independent critical voices ensures that the anti-imperialist rhetoric gains in currency.

Characteristics of the consolidated independent Zimbabwean state
The Zimbabwean state under the control of the petit bourgeois black elite
can in classical terms be described as a weak state characterised by low
levels of socio-political cohesion and political legitimacy3 . This is a
feature shared with most of the post colonial states in Africa. Political
legitimacy is undermined by the institutionalisation of exclusion as a
political tool serving the political interests of the elite which alienates
some sections of society in terms of access to power, participation and
resources4 . This invariably leads to the withdrawal and erosion of loyalty
to the state and its institutions.

The problem of legitimacy is further compounded by the personalisation of
the state characterised by the blurring of the distinction between the
state and the ruler5 . The objective interests of the state become
indistinguishable from the subjective interests of the ruler and his regime
in power6, a phenomenon defined by Weber as 'patrimonialism'. The ruler
ensures the political survival and stability of his regime by providing
security and selective distribution of resources and services to his
supporters. The role of the rogue war vets and the youth brigades during
the past elections and selective distribution of food aid are fitting
examples of this phenomenon

On account of the foregoing characteristics, the state is reduced to nothing
more than a façade masking the realities of a patrimonial and personalised
state bereft of legitimacy in the eyes of the public7. As a consequence of
its vulnerability and insecurity the state becomes pre-occupied with its
security and survival8 . It adopts policies that utilise scarce resources
for military purposes and manpower and perceives opposition movements and civil society with their demands for greater political space and participation as dangerous and threatening9. This tallies with Zimbabwe's purchase of military hardware from China, the expansion of the cabinet and introduction of the senate at a time that the country is literally broke.

Democratising the weak state
Given the foregoing attribute of a weak state that characterise Mugabe's
Zimbabwe, the question now arise as to how to democratise s such a state and realise the original aims and objectives of the national liberation struggle. Western models on democratisation based on multi-partyism,
multi-party elections, supporting state institutions and strengthening civil society have been tried in a number of African countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe10 . Though change of government might have been achieved in those countries other than Zimbabwe, it is doubtful whether democratisation has taken root in those countries. The political problems that continue to plague Kenya, Zambia and Malawi lend credence to this assertion. As for Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime remains firmly in power with prospects for immediate democratisation continually receding.

There are a number of reasons for this. In the first instance, the
so-called political parties within the framework of the multi-party system,
are not formed on the basis of distinct views on policies and public
interest as is the case in the West, but rather on attempts to unite people
against those in power who they tend to regard as enemies11 . Furthermore, there is a strong ethnic and regional dimension in African politics and a lack of a clear policy platform or ideological orientation and linkages to specific societal interest groups or associations12 . To a certain extent, these assumptions are also true of the MDC in Zimbabwe.

The regime that assumes power on the basis of multi-party elections hardly
ever transforms the basis of politics13 with the result being more of the
same and formal reforms masking continuity in African politics14. Such a
scenario is fraught with serious consequences as it could result in the
sedimentation of existing power structures through premature closure of the process of democratisation15. This flows from the establishment of formal procedures and institutions before real transformation of power takes
place. What appears to be a multi-party system from a distance becomes in
essence a series of patronage client networks16. Such a scenario could
hardly resemble genuine democratisation.

Secondly, the support and promotion of civil society as a counter-weight to state power, noble though the objective might be, the approach is bedevilled by a number of constraints. Civil society in Zimbabwe and many other African countries is comparatively weak and beset by financial, organisational and operational constraints. As elsewhere in Africa, the same problems that afflict society such as poverty, corruption, nepotism, parochialism, opportunism, ethnicity illiberalism and the propensity for cooption are also mirrored in civil society17. In most cases, the CSOs generally operate within a tight agenda and parameters dictated by funding partners. Furthermore, some of the CSOs have an elitist world outlook without roots in the grassroots, the supposed beneficiaries of the CSO agenda.

On elections, it has to be borne in mind that democratisation entails a
struggle for power. However given the concentration and personalisation of
power in a weak state as discussed above, possession and control of
political power becomes a critical factor and stakes are raised during
elections18. In the light of the state of economies in weak states such as
Zimbabwe, political power becomes the dominant social good and those in
control of power have control over a whole range of other goods in
society19. In such a situation, incumbents have at their disposal a
formidable arsenal of tools and means with which to influence voter
preferences and election outcomes20. Zimbabwe is an excellent case in point given the experiences of elections held since 2000.

Scholars have noted that holding multi-party elections in weak states like
Zimbabwe, can be a generally destabilising experience with the possibility
of arousing ethnic sentiments21. Furthermore, holding elections in an
atmosphere devoid of the respect of the rule of law, where the protection of
civil and political rights is not guaranteed as was the case in Zimbawe's
elections since 2000, directly contributes to poltical violence and
violation of human rights22. It is inconceivable that given the high stakes
involved in Zimbabwe's elections that the incumbents could voluntarily
commit suicide by levelling the electoral filed that would enhance the
chances of their removal.

Some food for thought
The foregoing discussion of the problems associated with the democratisation of weak states underscores the need for a paradigm shift. Africa's curse and tragedy has been the advent of the political party system, the emergence of the petit bourgeois elite and the attendant winner take all political system. This whole scenario is discordant with the reality of traditional African culture with its tried and tested sound political culture founded on harmony, consensus and tolerance. Post colonial Africa has not as yet developed the requisite checks and balances to ensure accountability and the responsible exercise of power given a Western political system. Foisting competitive politics based on multi-party systems is counter-productive, destabilising and a recipe for disaster. This accounts for Africa's political and economic woes since independence. Political parties in the
West are based on clearly discernible class interests and concomitant
ideological platforms. Class differentiation is not that advanced in Africa
giving rise to emergence of a petit bourgeois elite that monopolises power
through the personalisation of the state, patrimonialism and subversion of
state institutions like the army, police, the judiciary and civil service to
serve the interests of the elite.

There is therefore need to rethink the model of democratisation of weak
states given this problematic. Given the polarising effect of multi-party
politics in Africa, there is a strong argument to focus on a consensus
seeking approach that accords with African nature and culture. This should
of necessity be driven by interests based groups and organisations such as
workers, communal farmers, trade associations, women, the youth,
professional associations and the military . Such groupings have a direct
interest and stake in how the country is governed. Such interest groups
should be the drivers for ground rules for the exercise and arrangement of
power and how the country should be governed. In other words, there should
be a greater role for interests based groups, a transformed civil society in
determining the issues of governance and accountability.

The convenient starting point for such an approach would be constitution
making. It is the institutionalisation of constitutional mechanisms that
will generate the requisite culture of trust, tolerance and compromise that
ensure the success of electoral processes and the legitimacy of power and
not the other way round23. Successful constitution making is an assurance
against the premature closure of the process of democratisation and defuses tensions associated with politics in weak states.

Such an approach to democratisation requires careful and painstaking work,
political skill and patience given that democratisation itself is a conflict
generating process involving dramatic change and new power arrangements24. Care should be taken to address the concerns of powerful interest groups such as the military that are omitted in Western models of democratisation. There is a cogent argument for the democratic forces to craft a military policy that canvasses the support of the military25. Sustained political crises and budget cuts associated with weak states on the defensive pre-dispose the military to lend support to the forces of democratisation



Slow Delivery in South Africa’s Land Reform Programme: “The property clause revisited
Lungisile Ntsebeza's Wolpe Lecture, University of KwaZulu Natal, 24 August 2005, Durban

INTRODUCTION
Except for hardboiled party loyalists there is wide acceptance today that the pace of land reform in South Africa is painfully slow. In the first 10 years of democracy, a mere three per cent of the land had been transferred to black hands. This criticism is not only made by government critics. Government officials and members of the Tri-partite Alliance also acknowledge this problem. At a `People’s Land Tribunal’ in December 2003, after listening to some witnesses describe the problems they had encountered in their attempts to access land through the land reform programme, the then Deputy Director-General of the Department of Land Affairs, now Director General in the same department, Mr. Glen Thomas, admitted that `I understand perfectly their frustration. I think sometimes it is justifiable … there are very difficult issues that we have to deal with’. In addition, Thomas made a statement that shocked those attending the Tribunal. He claimed that it was ‘a dream’ to think that 30 per cent of land would be transferred in the first five years of South Africa’s democracy.

Thomas was referring to the initial target of the ANC-led government when it came to power in 1994.

In their Red October 2004 campaign, the South African Communist Party (SACP), an alliance partner with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), have made similar pronouncements about the slow pace of land reform in South Africa. Within this context, the Secretary General of the SACP, Blade Nzimande, is reported as having threatened: “We will march to the department of Agriculture, Land Affairs and the Reserve Bank in support for accelerated land reform”. Most recently, participants at the Land Summit held in Johannesburg in July this year were almost unanimous that current policies on land reform were ineffective. This was particularly the case with the willing seller, willing buyer principle.

However, while there may be general acceptance even from government officials and alliance partners of the ANC that the South African land reform programme is not occurring fast enough, there is no agreement about the reasons for the slow pace. My contribution will survey some of the reasons advanced by government and critics, in particular the critics’ argument that the property clause in the Constitution is the main obstacle to land redistribution in South Africa.

As will become clear, this is not the first time concerns about the property clause are articulated. The matter received some degree of discussion during the political negotiations period in the early 1990s, a process which led to the initial inclusion of the clause in the Interim Constitution. I will very briefly review these debates in order to provide a context for the current discussion.

The central question is whether it is possible to embark on a comprehensive land redistribution programme while recognising and entrenching land rights acquired through colonialism and apartheid, as the property clause does.

THE PROPERTY CLAUSE AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN INTERIM CONSTITUTION: THE DEBATE

The context
It is important that the wider context within which the property clause debate is occurring should not be forgotten. A lot has been written and said about the broader historical context, but it is worth highlighting the following:

Starting from the seventeenth century, white settlers in South Africa appropriated more than 90 per cent of the land surface, a process that was formalized with the passing of the notorious Native Land Act of 1913. Compared to other countries on the Continent, the extent of land plunder in South Africa was extraordinary.

While colonialism and apartheid systematically undermined African agriculture, white farmers on the other hand benefited from substantial state subsidies. Apart from the state subsidies, white capitalist agriculture has flourished as a result of the availability of a captured cheap black labour. There are currently about 55,000 white commercial farmers in South Africa, with varying degrees of concentration of land holding.

Although the liberation struggle in South Africa was not overtly fought around the land question, as was the case in Zimbabwe for example, there was always the expectation that unravelling centuries of land dispossession and oppression would be among the priorities of a democratic South Africa. Indeed, the ANC’s Freedom Charter, drafted in the 1950s when decolonization in Africa was on the agenda, had promised that “(t)he land shall be shared among those who work it” and will be “re-divided among those who work it, to banish famine and land hunger”.

Following a brief period of political lull in the late 1960s and early 1970s, resistance against apartheid re-emerged. By the early 1980s, some commentators were concluding that South Africa was in a state of “organic crisis”.

An important point to bear in mind is that while it is possible to argue that the apartheid regime was under extreme pressure, particularly in the critical period of “ungovernability and insurrection” in the mid-1980s, equally valid is the fact that the opposition forces were not strong enough to overthrow the apartheid machinery. By the late 1980s, there were clear signs that a negotiated settlement was on the cards. Already in 1986, big business was arguing strongly in favour of negotiations with the ANC. Their argument was that the ANC was not necessarily a communist organisation and that although, in the words of Zach de Beer `years of apartheid have caused many blacks to reject the economic as well as the political system’, South Africans should not `dare … allow the baby of free enterprise to be thrown out with the bathwater of apartheid’.

It is these processes that ultimately led to the release of political prisoners and unbanning of political organisations, paving the way for the political negotiations talks of the early 1990s and the first democratic elections in 1994.

The land question and the property clause debate up to the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994

Although not occupying centre stage, the vital question of how the land question would be resolved was discuss as early as the 1980s. This was raised in the context of discussing a Bill of Rights for a future South Africa. It is striking to note that two South African judges took a progressive stance on the question of property rights. Their theme was that a lasting resolution of the South African problem would be threatened if existing property rights were protected. For example, Judge Leon, a fairly conservative judge who sentenced an ANC guerrilla, Andrew Masondo, to death in 1985, warned in the same year that a constitutional protection of property rights could cause serious problems for the acceptance of the bill of rights. A few years later, in 1988, Judge Didcott cautioned:
What a Bill of Rights cannot afford to do here … is to protect private property with such zeal that it entrenches privilege. A major problem which any future South African government is bound to face will be the problem of poverty, of its alleviation and of the need for the country’s wealth to be shared more equitably …


Should a bill of rights obstruct the government of the day when that direction is taken, should it make the urgent task of social or economic reform impossible or difficult to undertake, we shall have on our hands a crisis of the first order, endangering the bill of rights as a whole and the survival of constitutional government itself.

The two judges seem to have perfectly understood that transformation in terms of property rights and redressing the imbalances caused by colonialism and apartheid were not likely to be possible if existing property rights were recognised and entrenched. It is not clear, though, what alternative measures they had in mind.

When the issue of land was eventually discussed during the political negotiation process in the early 1990s, the ANC’s initial position on property rights was similar to that of Judge Didcott mentioned above. Of course, the ANC would have sought direction from its Freedom Charter. The land and property clauses in the ANC Bill of Rights were conceived, not as a device to protect the title of existing property owners, but rather to facilitate a legislative programme of land restoration and rural restructuring.

For the National Party, the other main party in the political negotiation process, the protection of existing property, and the inclusion of the property clause in the constitution was critical.

In the end, the National Party won the struggle to have the property clause in the interim constitution. Once the ANC recognised that they had lost the debate, the ANC representatives worked on two main objectives, first, to ensure that the property clause would not `frustrate a programme of restitution of land to the victims of forced removals under apartheid’ and second, to see to it that the future democratic state had `the power to regulate property without incurring an obligation to compensate owners whose property rights were infringed in the process’.

One of the “central issues” that is pertinent to our discussion is what Matthew Chaskalson refers to as the willingness of the National Party to compromise on `the principle that compensation for expropriation of property would not necessarily be tied to market value’.

This meant, in Chaskalson’s understanding, that the property clause `would not obstruct the operation of the restoration clauses because it allowed for payment less than market value compensation in appropriate cases of restoration’ (Chaskalson 1995: 232). The issue of compensation, and the role of the market, in particular, remains, as will be clear just now, one of the contentious issues in current debates on the slow pace of land reform in South Africa.

It is not clear why the National Party agreed to such a notion. In the final analysis, an agreement was reached in a meeting on 25 and 26 October 1993, resulting in the inclusion of the property clause (section 28) in the Interim Constitution.

It is widely accepted that section 28 represents a compromise between the ANC and National Party positions. Sub-section 1 clearly protects existing property rights and those who have the resources to “acquire” and therefore buy property. Sub-sections 2 and 3 appear to be addressing the cause and interests of the historically dispossessed and poor.

Chaskalson’s interpretation of these sub-clauses is interesting and, with hindsight, optimistic. This is, for our purposes, particularly the case with the compensation process, which, as already indicated, would not necessarily be based on market prices.

Chaskalson’s optimism seems to have been based on his understanding and interpretation of the compromise reached in the negotiations. Although agreeing that the wording of section 28 `is not always clear’, he imagined that the courts `would do well to adopt a purposive approach’ in interpreting this section, bearing `in mind the compromise which the section’ sought to achieve. Drawing from comparative legal history, Chaskalson concluded that if courts were `overzealous in their protection of property rights … the potential for constitutional conflict between court and state would be substantial’ (1994: 139).

It is worth bearing in mind the conditions on the ground at the time to understand this optimism. White farmers, including those in the South African Agricultural Union (SAAU) had come to accept that negotiations with black land-claimants could mean that the latter would gain ownership of a portion of the farmers’ land as part of a wider process of redress (Chaskalson 1993:73). I recall that when I was conducting research on, inter alia, land occupations in the Queenstown area in the mid-1990s, the question of buying and selling land was hardly discussed. A significant amount of land had been grabbed and occupied by land hungry black South Africans (Wotshela 2001). There was, behind these land occupations, the conviction by the historically dispossessed and their allies that existing white property rights were illegitimate, on the one hand, and an acceptance by some white farmers that they would have to share land with their black South Africans.

Despite these realities on the ground, the interim and final constitution entrenched the property clause. The Final Constitution essentially reinforced and refined what was already contained in the Interim Constitution. This only shows how distant the political negotiation process was from local realities.

In this regard, it is worth recalling the warning of Judge Didcott cited earlier. The judge had cautioned that what a Bill of Rights ‘cannot afford to do … (was) to protect private property with such zeal that it entrenches privilege’ and make it, amongst others, difficult ‘for the country’s wealth to be shared more equitably’.

Developments since 1994, as indicated at the outset, paint a gloomy picture. Not only did government commit itself to a market-led programme, land reform policy in South Africa was to be based on a willing-seller-willing-buyer condition.

Various reasons have been offered in attempts to explain slow delivery in land reform. The bone of contention in current debates, it seems, is around the interpretation of the section 25 of the constitution. There seem to be broadly two streams to the debate. On the one hand, there are those who argue that the fundamentals in terms of policy are in place and that what is now missing is commitment from the government to ensure that the policies are implemented.

Others, on the other hand, argue that the problem is with policy, in particular the entrenchment of the property clause in the Constitution as well as the endorsement in policy of the willing-seller-willing-buyer principle. Let us consider each of these arguments in some detail.

Government representatives at the Land Tribunal held in Port Elizabeth in December 2003 provide one example of the argument that the fundamentals are in place. Both the Deputy Director-General of Land Affairs, Glen Thomas and Manie Schoeman, member of the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Land Affairs agreed that they had no problem with policy, including the willing-seller-willing-buyer condition. The issue, according to Thomas was ‘whether government has sufficient resources to buy land when there is a willing seller at a price at which the willing seller wants to sell the land’. He was adamant that the ‘land market is there. There’s no scarcity of land that could be bought, but the question is at what cost, at what price? That’s the point’.

A more nuanced and coherent version of the above argument has recently been made by Ruth Hall (2004). She does not query the fact that Section 25(1) protects existing property rights (2004:5). Her point is that although the land reform policy is based on a ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ condition, the state can expropriate land. She argues that a far-reaching land reform is possible within the existing constitutional framework. According to her: ‘While protecting rights, the constitution also explicitly empowers the state to expropriate property and specifies that property may be expropriated in the public interest, including “the nation’s commitment to land reform”’ (2004:6).

In many ways, Hall was responding to arguments raised in a paper authored by Fred Hendricks and I in (2000) and Hendricks (2004). The main argument in these writings is that the provisions of section 25 in the Constitution are contradictory in the sense that on the one hand the Constitution protects existing property rights, while at the same time making a commitment to redistributing land to the dispossessed majority.

Hall, though, has a point. We have never really addressed the issue of expropriation. Important to remember here is that expropriation goes with compensation. It should not, as Thomas reminded those attending the Land Tribunal, be confused with confiscation. This then raises the question of how compensation is determined. Sub-section 3 of section 25 of the constitution is supposed to guide the determination of compensation. However, it is widely accepted that this sub-section is extremely vague. It merely states that ‘the amount of compensation and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable’. But what precisely counts as a ‘just and equitable’ dispensation is not clearly spelt out, except that the subsection goes on to state that compensation should reflect ‘an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected’.

In this respect, regard would be accorded to ‘all relevant circumstances’. The pertinent ones for our purposes include the history of the acquisition and use of the property; the market value of the property; and the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property.

In recognition of the vagueness of some of these provisions, a so-called ‘Geldenhuys formula’ is used to determine compensation. Justice Geldenhuys is a Land Claims Court judge who worked out a formula for the determination of compensation in cases involving expropriation in restitution cases. In essence, the formula takes into account two of the circumstances mentioned in sub-section 3 of section 25 of the Constitution: the market value of the property and the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property.

In a nutshell, the amount of compensation is the market value of the property minus the current value of past subsidies.

The question that confronts us is whether a consideration of the expropriation measure and the clarity that the Geldenhuys formula has brought undermines the argument that the property clause is a major obstacle in fundamental land reform in South Africa.

I contend that the expropriation clause does not affect my conclusion about the property clause.
In the first instance, government has itself shown great reluctance to invoke the expropriation clause. Thomas conceded in his testimony that although the government has expropriated land for land reform purposes, this is not the norm. In his response to a question from the President of the PAC on the 2005 State of the Nation address, President Mbeki has also shown great reluctance in using expropriation as a mechanism to redistribute land.

Secondly, although the Geldenhuys formula takes into account the critical issue of subsidies, the fact that compensation is based on the market price makes it almost impossible for the government to budget for land reform for the simple reason that the role of the state in determining the price is very limited, if at all.

Thomas in his testimony conceded that the fact that land owners were inclined to inflate their prices was a potential problem.

A point worth making in this regard is how the Geldenhuys formula has severely called to question what I earlier called Chaskalson’s optimism regarding the compensation amount.

We will recall that Chaskalson had argued that the amount of compensation in cases of expropriation could be determined without necessarily taking the market value into account. The judgement by Geldenhuys has created a precedent that pours cold water over Chaskalson’s optimistic position.

Lastly, and equally critical, it is intriguing that the history of land acquisition is not receiving prominence in the determination of compensation. In so far as reference is made to it, the suggestion is that this refers to the history of land acquisition by the affected land owner.

Yet, there is the history of colonial conquest and land dispossession that lies at the heart of the land question in South Africa. A serious attempt to embark on a radical land reform programme cannot afford to downplay the importance of this history.

It is this history, I argue, that gives legitimacy to the claims of those who were robbed of their land.

Closely linked to this is that the naked exploitation of black labour which was central to the success of white commercial farming in South Africa is interestingly not considered to be one of the crucial factors that must to be taken into account when the amount of compensation is calculated.

As I draw my talk to a close, I think it is important to address the hard question as to why the state has not used, does not and seems very reluctant to use the expropriation clause.

A standard response from some analysts suggests that the state does not have the political will to use its expropriation powers.

Others argue that part of the explanation is that the left within the Tripartite-Alliance was defeated in the mid-1990s, a process demonstrated by the shift from the RDP to GEAR in 1996.

However, while there may be substance to these positions, I think that there is more to the State’s reluctance than analysts have hitherto suggested. A more substantial explanation cannot afford to ignore the global political and economic order that emerged after the collapse of Soviet Communism from the late 1980s. The transition to democracy in South Africa in the early 1990s took place at a critical moment. Burawoy (2004) has recently suggested in his Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture that after collapse of Soviet communism, the ANC was left without a compass. Although not a communist or socialist organisation, the influence of communists in the ANC was palpable. Some of the clauses of the Freedom Charter bear testimony to this.

Given the dominance of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1990s, the question should be asked what alternatives the ANC had when it came to power in 1994. What were the implications of a radical agenda?

Have there been changes in the balance of forces to make a radical land reform programme possible?

Closely linked to the above is the relative weakness of land-based social movements and NGOs in South Africa. Initially, most of these organisations, in particular the National Land Committee (NLC), worked closely with the post-1994 government, assisting it in the formulation and implementation of policy.

The hope, it appears, was that it would be possible to influence the Department of Land Affairs in particular to formulate and implement progressive and perhaps radical land policies. How this would be achieved within the framework of a neo-liberal capitalist framework which the ANC-led government had adopted was not always clearly articulated.

But this honeymoon was short-lived. The dismal performance of government, including failure to achieve even its own target of transferring 30 per cent of white claimed agricultural land to blacks is one of the factors that led to tensions between social movements and government.

Although the story has not been fully written as yet, it seems clear that some activists within the NLC took a decision to mobilise the landless and exert pressure from below. The establishment of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) in 2001 should, I would argue, be viewed against this background.

What is intriguing in all of this is that the establishment of the LPM brought to the fore all sorts of tensions within the NLC, developments which led to the demise (temporarily?) of this important network of land-based organisations.

The weakness of land and agrarian movements in South Africa means that there is very little, effective pressure that comes from below. I am saying this being mindful of initiatives such as the Land Tribunal, the 2004 Red October of the South African Communist Party referred to above.

I am also aware the establishment of the Alliance of Land and Agrarian Reform Movements (ALARM) on the eve of the recent Land Summit.

Clearly, these developments suggest that the forces of opposition to the neo-liberal agenda pursued by the ANC are organising on the terrain of the conjectural.

We should not under-estimate this development. But it is too early to say what these initiatives will lead to. A more rigorous and indeed vigorous analysis of land and agrarian movements in South Africa is overdue.

Finally, whatever pressures the international situation exerts, there is no doubt that the market-led approach to land reform, including the property clause and the willing-buyer-willing-seller condition will not unravel years of colonial and apartheid dispossession.

Further, the claims that the poor are laying are legitimate. No one can dispute the fact that colonialism and capitalism in South Africa led to the dispossession of indigenous people and the development of racial capitalism and white dominated commercial farming which triumphed largely as a result of the naked exploitation of black labour.

The minimum that the poor and their allies expect is that these past imbalances be redressed. In the short-term, it seems as if the property clause in the Constitution needs to be re-visited. This is particularly the case with regard to the sub-section which protects existing property rights. No meaningful land reform programme is going to take place for as long as this clause is entrenched in the Constitution.

Apart from the above, there is an urgent need to challenge the so-called Geldenhuys formula, especially its fundamental notion that the market should determine the price of land, expropriated or not.



REVIEW OF LUNGISILE NTSEBEZA'S WOLPE LECTURE

by Patrick Bond

Durable Apartheid Land Relations: Is the Property Clause to Blame?

According to the Landless People's Movement (LPM), during the decade after liberation, Pretoria failed to deliver on its promise to 'redistribute 30% of the country's agricultural land from 60,000 white farmers to more than 19 million poor and landless rural black people and more than 7-million poor and landless urban black people within five years. Studies show that just over 2.3% of the country's land has changed hands through land reform.'

The key problem was the post-apartheid government's adoption of a World Bank-inspired, market-oriented, willing-seller/willing-buyer programme that limited the state function to providing a tiny once-off capital subsidy (R15,000), far too small to acquire a decent plot of land.

Lungisile Ntsebeza's paper, 'Slow Delivery in South Africa's Land Reform Programme: The Property Clause Revisited', was the Wolpe Memorial Lecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society on August 25. At the government/civil society/agribusiness Land Summit last month, Ntsebeza chaired the land reform panel and helped demolish the willing seller/willing buyer principle. He now takes the argument further by focusing on the Bill of Rights.

During the 1980s, only two high profile judges - Leon and Didcott - identified the future land reform challenge, and then took a progressive position on property rights, Ntsebeza remarked. 'What the two seemed to have perfectly understood was that transformation was not likely to be possible if existing property rights were entrenched.' As recently as the early 1990s, the African National Congress opposed a post-apartheid reification of the colonial and apartheid-era land grab.

However, the subsequent Bill of Rights in the Interim Constitution reflected the National Party's tough negotiating position. ANC representatives sought the power to redistribute, according to Ntsebeza, but 'without an excessive obligation to compensate owners'.

The NP at least conceded that the formal land market should not be the baseline for judging compensation. An agreement on compensation - albeit 'extremely vague' - was reached in October 1993, resulting in Section 28 of the Interim Constitution. Then, says Ntsebeza, 'The final constitution's Section 25 reinforced and refined the Interim Constitution. This only shows how distant the political negotiations were from local realities.'

How is compensation determined? The Constitution refers only to a 'just and equitable dispensation'. As Ntsebeza notes, however, 'Land owners are inclined to inflate prices.' Land Claims Court judge Geldenhuys worked out a formula that emphasised the market value of the property, correcting by subtracting an estimate of the present value of past state subsidies.

But there are more serious problems beyond determination of a fair price for land, says Ntsebeza: 'Government has shown great reluctance to invoke the expropriation clause. Some argue that the state doesn't have the political will. Others argue that the Left within the Alliance was defeated by the mid-1990s. I think there is more to the state's reluctance: the global political economic order since the late 1980s.' Specifically, Ntsebeza remarks, 'The ANC lost the Soviet compass, but immediately acquired a neoliberal compass.'

That is probably true, especially in view of the debates over land reform in 1993-94, when Derek Hanekom was the land desk officer at Luthuli House and then the first democratic land minister. (He was subsequently demoted to the backbenches of parliament in 1999 but arose to become deputy minister of science and technology last year.) His replacement, Thoko Didiza, comes from much the same tradition, though added a Black Economic Empowerment approach to neoliberal land policy.

Ntsebeza poses this challenge: 'What alternatives did the ANC have when it came to power? We have to ask this question. Closely linked is the relative weakness of the land-based organisations, whether community-based or NGOs. Their hope was to influence the Department of Land Affairs. How this was to be achieved within the context of the neoliberal policy the ANC had adopted was not clearly articulated.' A group that came to be known as 'land reform liberals' moved from the National Land Committee to the state in the mid-1990s, but merely lubricated the neoliberal approach.

In contrast, the nascent popular landless sector in early 1994 advocated 30% redistribution, above and beyond the restitution programme agreed upon for land stolen by whites after the 1913 Land Act. Ironically, even World Bank staff staff and a close local ally, the Land and Agricultural Policy Centre, used this statistic, as they worked hard to generate legitimacy for a market-based strategy.

Why 30%? The land market typically turned over 6% of land each year, so a five-year target of 30% would have been reasonable - in the event the state withdrew residual apartheid-era subsidies (ranging from irrigation to energy to cheap credit) from white commercial farmers and, in the interests of affirmative action, redirected those to black emerging farmers.

To get to the 30% target, there were basically two choices. One was what we can call the 'commodification' model of land reform: relying upon the market, via a small household grant and increased access to rural credit. In choosing this route, Hanekom virtually copied Zimbabwe's Lancaster House model intact, to the extent of taking advice from the same World Bank economist, Robert Christiansen, who was responsible for trying to salvage the failed scheme during the early 1990s.

(Zimbabwe's two-decade failure of the willing seller/willing buyer model, along with Robert Mugabe's need to intimidate his citizenry after losing the February 2000 constitutional referendum, helps explain the destructive rural chaos misleadingly termed 'fast-track land reform'.)

The second choice would have been the state's purchase of the land - whether voluntarily coming to market or through strategic expropriation, which should have been relatively inexpensive for two reasons. First, the withdrawal of residual apartheid subsidies would have forced more white farmers to offer up their land.

Moreover, following South Africa's - and indeed the world's - 1990-93 real estate market crash, the stage of the price cycle that prevailed in 1994 was favourable. Today, land prices in prime areas of South Africa mirror the global bubbling of speculative real estate markets. This makes redress using market mechanisms so expensive that even state officials - including president Mbeki - are looking skeptically at the hedonistic white-dominated golf estates and game farms that now pock once-productive agricultural soil.

That second choice - we can term it the 'decommodification' model - would have relied upon large state-owned farms, which in turn could have been rationally broken into component parts where cooperative strategies were difficult to realize. To be sure, state farms have a dismal record in some half-hearted land reform experiments where rural civil society is weak, but in other cases, such as Cuba, they were the prerequisite for successful land redistribution.

By decommodifying land, specifically by removing it from the market once in state hands, the present trends that make life hard for small farmers - historically high interest rates, ever-lower commodity prices, excessive agricultural mechanisation and export-orientation, and sophisticated cropping systems featuring genetic modification - could have been more effectively contested.

But the prerequisite for changing agricultural policy, getting access to decent land, and using it wisely is the empowerment of rural civil society. The best model is, perhaps, the Brazilian Movement of Landless Workers.

In contrast, says Ntsebeza, South Africa needs much stronger advocacy. 'The establishment of the Landless People's Movement in 2001 brought to the fore all sorts of tensions within the National Land Committee, which led to the demise of this network.' As a result, today, 'there is very little effective pressure that comes from below.'

Occasionally, there are eruptions of protest, including the LPM's excellent demonstrations at UN summits on racism and sustainable development in 2001-02, their periodic land invasions and the political protest on election day in 2004, in which police responsible for three cases of torture of LMP leaders are finally, 16 months later, now appearing in court. In addition, protest against the commodification strategy was heard in the 2003 land tribunal, the 2004 Red October campaign of the SA Communist Party (in alliance with the LPM), and through last month's formation of the Alliance of Land and Agrarian Reform Movements (Alarm) network.

Achieving a decommodified model of thorough-going land reform will require more state resources, all these civil society networks agree. Hanekom had announced in mid-1996 that the bargain-basement price of R15 billion in state subsidies would pay for land reform over the subsequent five years. It was not clear how the figure was arrived at, because his staff reckoned that 1.7 million families required land (itself a conservative estimate). Given the standard grant of R15,000 (a figure chosen because it was equivalent to the housing subsidy) and inflation of 10 per cent each year, just over 900,000 families would be served.

The Land Summit last month was, at least rhetorically, the death knell for the commodification strategy of willing seller/willing buyer. Yet at the same time, when deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for 'lessons' and 'skills' to be transferred from Zimbabwe, the opportunity for a serious decommodification strategy seemed to fade.

In view of the weakness of civil society and the strength of patronage-based traditional leaders, Ntsebeza advocates a major rural power shift. Back home in the Eastern Cape community of Cala, Ntsebeza and his brother Dumisa (a judge who is one of South Africa's premier public intellectuals) ran a famous Marxist bookshop for many years. Indeed, Ntsebeza has authored a brand new book about that community: Democracy Compromised: Chiefs and the Politics of the Land in South Africa (Leiden, Brill).

Notwithstanding the greatest admiration for this legacy of scholarship, advocacy and activism, I'm not sure I agree with Ntsebeza's main thesis, namely that the property clause itself is the key barrier. It is better considered a symptom than a cause.

The 'cause' of ongoing land hunger is the combination of neoliberal fiscal austerity, the World Bank strategy, and the elite class pacting that together characterise all the other developmental failures of post-apartheid South Africa.

From that standpoint, Ntsebeza's last words are telling: 'It will be difficult for the Department of Land Affairs to deal with the Land Summit. The overwhelming majority of people agreed that we have a problem. A tiny minority of AgriSA [white commercial farming] delegates were opposed. And they raised the threat that if you interfere with the market there will be consequences far beyond our imagination. Look at Zimbabwe, they say: you defy the world, and you find yourself in a position where the world boycotts you.'

But likewise, continue with the willing seller/willing buyer model, and the conditions for a Zimbabwe-style political breakdown only improve.

The key problem was the post-apartheid government's adoption of a World Bank-inspired, market-oriented, willing-seller/willing-buyer programme that limited the state function to providing a tiny once-off capital subsidy (R15,000), far too small to acquire a decent plot of land.

Lungisile Ntsebeza's paper, 'Slow Delivery in South Africa's Land Reform Programme: The Property Clause Revisited', was the Wolpe Memorial Lecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society on August 25. At the government/civil society/agribusiness Land Summit last month, Ntsebeza chaired the land reform panel and helped demolish the willing seller/willing buyer principle. He now takes the argument further by focusing on the Bill of Rights.

During the 1980s, only two high profile judges - Leon and Didcott - identified the future land reform challenge, and then took a progressive position on property rights, Ntsebeza remarked. 'What the two seemed to have perfectly understood was that transformation was not likely to be possible if existing property rights were entrenched.' As recently as the early 1990s, the African National Congress opposed a post-apartheid reification of the colonial and apartheid-era land grab.

However, the subsequent Bill of Rights in the Interim Constitution reflected the National Party's tough negotiating position. ANC representatives sought the power to redistribute, according to Ntsebeza, but 'without an excessive obligation to compensate owners'.

The NP at least conceded that the formal land market should not be the baseline for judging compensation. An agreement on compensation - albeit 'extremely vague' - was reached in October 1993, resulting in Section 28 of the Interim Constitution. Then, says Ntsebeza, 'The final constitution's Section 25 reinforced and refined the Interim Constitution. This only shows how distant the political negotiations were from local realities.'

How is compensation determined? The Constitution refers only to a 'just and equitable dispensation'. As Ntsebeza notes, however, 'Land owners are inclined to inflate prices.' Land Claims Court judge Geldenhuys worked out a formula that emphasised the market value of the property, correcting by subtracting an estimate of the present value of past state subsidies.

But there are more serious problems beyond determination of a fair price for land, says Ntsebeza: 'Government has shown great reluctance to invoke the expropriation clause. Some argue that the state doesn't have the political will. Others argue that the Left within the Alliance was defeated by the mid-1990s. I think there is more to the state's reluctance: the global political economic order since the late 1980s.' Specifically, Ntsebeza remarks, 'The ANC lost the Soviet compass, but immediately acquired a neoliberal compass.'

That is probably true, especially in view of the debates over land reform in 1993-94, when Derek Hanekom was the land desk officer at Luthuli House and then the first democratic land minister. (He was subsequently demoted to the backbenches of parliament in 1999 but arose to become deputy minister of science and technology last year.) His replacement, Thoko Didiza, comes from much the same tradition, though added a Black Economic Empowerment approach to neoliberal land policy.

Ntsebeza poses this challenge: 'What alternatives did the ANC have when it came to power? We have to ask this question. Closely linked is the relative weakness of the land-based organisations, whether community-based or NGOs. Their hope was to influence the Department of Land Affairs. How this was to be achieved within the context of the neoliberal policy the ANC had adopted was not clearly articulated.' A group that came to be known as 'land reform liberals' moved from the National Land Committee to the state in the mid-1990s, but merely lubricated the neoliberal approach.

In contrast, the nascent popular landless sector in early 1994 advocated 30% redistribution, above and beyond the restitution programme agreed upon for land stolen by whites after the 1913 Land Act. Ironically, even World Bank staff staff and a close local ally, the Land and Agricultural Policy Centre, used this statistic, as they worked hard to generate legitimacy for a market-based strategy.

Why 30%? The land market typically turned over 6% of land each year, so a five-year target of 30% would have been reasonable - in the event the state withdrew residual apartheid-era subsidies (ranging from irrigation to energy to cheap credit) from white commercial farmers and, in the interests of affirmative action, redirected those to black emerging farmers.

To get to the 30% target, there were basically two choices. One was what we can call the 'commodification' model of land reform: relying upon the market, via a small household grant and increased access to rural credit. In choosing this route, Hanekom virtually copied Zimbabwe's Lancaster House model intact, to the extent of taking advice from the same World Bank economist, Robert Christiansen, who was responsible for trying to salvage the failed scheme during the early 1990s.

(Zimbabwe's two-decade failure of the willing seller/willing buyer model, along with Robert Mugabe's need to intimidate his citizenry after losing the February 2000 constitutional referendum, helps explain the destructive rural chaos misleadingly termed 'fast-track land reform'.)

The second choice would have been the state's purchase of the land - whether voluntarily coming to market or through strategic expropriation, which should have been relatively inexpensive for two reasons. First, the withdrawal of residual apartheid subsidies would have forced more white farmers to offer up their land.

Moreover, following South Africa's - and indeed the world's - 1990-93 real estate market crash, the stage of the price cycle that prevailed in 1994 was favourable. Today, land prices in prime areas of South Africa mirror the global bubbling of speculative real estate markets. This makes redress using market mechanisms so expensive that even state officials - including president Mbeki - are looking skeptically at the hedonistic white-dominated golf estates and game farms that now pock once-productive agricultural soil.

That second choice - we can term it the 'decommodification' model - would have relied upon large state-owned farms, which in turn could have been rationally broken into component parts where cooperative strategies were difficult to realize. To be sure, state farms have a dismal record in some half-hearted land reform experiments where rural civil society is weak, but in other cases, such as Cuba, they were the prerequisite for successful land redistribution.

By decommodifying land, specifically by removing it from the market once in state hands, the present trends that make life hard for small farmers - historically high interest rates, ever-lower commodity prices, excessive agricultural mechanisation and export-orientation, and sophisticated cropping systems featuring genetic modification - could have been more effectively contested.

But the prerequisite for changing agricultural policy, getting access to decent land, and using it wisely is the empowerment of rural civil society. The best model is, perhaps, the Brazilian Movement of Landless Workers.

In contrast, says Ntsebeza, South Africa needs much stronger advocacy. 'The establishment of the Landless People's Movement in 2001 brought to the fore all sorts of tensions within the National Land Committee, which led to the demise of this network.' As a result, today, 'there is very little effective pressure that comes from below.'

Occasionally, there are eruptions of protest, including the LPM's excellent demonstrations at UN summits on racism and sustainable development in 2001-02, their periodic land invasions and the political protest on election day in 2004, in which police responsible for three cases of torture of LMP leaders are finally, 16 months later, now appearing in court. In addition, protest against the commodification strategy was heard in the 2003 land tribunal, the 2004 Red October campaign of the SA Communist Party (in alliance with the LPM), and through last month's formation of the Alliance of Land and Agrarian Reform Movements (Alarm) network.

Achieving a decommodified model of thorough-going land reform will require more state resources, all these civil society networks agree. Hanekom had announced in mid-1996 that the bargain-basement price of R15 billion in state subsidies would pay for land reform over the subsequent five years. It was not clear how the figure was arrived at, because his staff reckoned that 1.7 million families required land (itself a conservative estimate). Given the standard grant of R15,000 (a figure chosen because it was equivalent to the housing subsidy) and inflation of 10 per cent each year, just over 900,000 families would be served.

The Land Summit last month was, at least rhetorically, the death knell for the commodification strategy of willing seller/willing buyer. Yet at the same time, when deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for 'lessons' and 'skills' to be transferred from Zimbabwe, the opportunity for a serious decommodification strategy seemed to fade.

In view of the weakness of civil society and the strength of patronage-based traditional leaders, Ntsebeza advocates a major rural power shift. Back home in the Eastern Cape community of Cala, Ntsebeza and his brother Dumisa (a judge who is one of South Africa's premier public intellectuals) ran a famous Marxist bookshop for many years. Indeed, Ntsebeza has authored a brand new book about that community: Democracy Compromised: Chiefs and the Politics of the Land in South Africa (Leiden, Brill).

Notwithstanding the greatest admiration for this legacy of scholarship, advocacy and activism, I'm not sure I agree with Ntsebeza's main thesis, namely that the property clause itself is the key barrier. It is better considered a symptom than a cause.

The 'cause' of ongoing land hunger is the combination of neoliberal fiscal austerity, the World Bank strategy, and the elite class pacting that together characterise all the other developmental failures of post-apartheid South Africa.

From that standpoint, Ntsebeza's last words are telling: 'It will be difficult for the Department of Land Affairs to deal with the Land Summit. The overwhelming majority of people agreed that we have a problem. A tiny minority of AgriSA [white commercial farming] delegates were opposed. And they raised the threat that if you interfere with the market there will be consequences far beyond our imagination. Look at Zimbabwe, they say: you defy the world, and you find yourself in a position where the world boycotts you.'

But likewise, continue with the willing seller/willing buyer model, and the conditions for a Zimbabwe-style political breakdown only improve.






A review of Dinga Sikwebu's Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture – 4th
August 2005


By Ntokozo Mthembu

Changes in South Africa’s social arena challenge activists and other community role players to raise new and different questions with a view toward tackling the problems they encounter. As Dinga Sikwebu pointed out in his Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture, social actors have responded to the situation differently depending on the angle which they are coming from. Sikwebu’s lecture focused on this question of whether the two tracks of labour and social movements will ever meet. His lecture focused on Cosatu versus social movements and the challenges that come out of that and he spoke about the tripartite alliance of ANC, Cosatu, and SACP, changes in the workforce, changes in trade union membership, and people’s perception of ANC leadership.

Sikwebu started his lecture by noting the political atmosphere in the 1970s, when Cosatu was formed as a federation and was involved in struggles around rent, forced removals, and shop floor issues. He noted that this era was identified by the type of shop stewards who were also involved in community movement structures; this is referred to as the ‘two caps’ theory. Sikwebu makes a distinction between this period and the 1990s, as he argues that the 90s are identified as times of intensified commodification and 1994 is identified with the failure by the government to deliver services or even to meet the aspirations of the formerly disadvantage communities. It is also associated with the failure of the traditional civic organizations, such as SANCO, to render services to their constituencies, as these constituencies still face issues such as eviction and denial of basic services. This failure led to the emergence of new social movements such as the Treat Action Campaign (TAC), Anti-Privatisation Forum, Operation ‘Khanyisa’ and the Landless People’s Movement as the manner of responding to the needs of the communities. Sikwebu argues that these new social movements are very visible in the Western Cape, Free State, and in some townships of Gauteng. He said this new development is mostly emerging in areas where there are no known activists and that makes it difficult for the authorities to deal with an ‘obvious culprit’ or to apprehend them.

When it comes to addressing the question of whether the two tracks of labour and social movements will ever meet, Sikwebu brings to light the fact that there have been few organised workers swelling the ranks of the new social movements. He also referred to an article in Development Update written by someone at the Centre for Civil Society in 2005, showing that the bulk of the membership of the new social movement consists of the unemployed, pensioners, and women between the ages of 35 and 40 years. He further argues that ‘there are less trade union members active in the social movements due to the fact that the familiar explanation in Johannesburg says Cosatu leadership does everything in their power in the quest for preservation of the tripartite alliance and they are also blocking workers in linking with social movements’. Whilst Sikwebu raised a very important fact, he failed to give further analysis on this issue of how Cosatu’s involvement with the alliance may constrain its choices.

Sikwebu argued that Cosatu, in their own debates, decided that they wanted to work with those who were willing to support the alliance. He said this view has failed in a number of ways because it fails to explain why workers joined social movements in the 1980s as union activities linked up with community activities. He argued that people have failed to understand change within the labour movement. He also said that those against the alliance fail to appreciate ANC rule, the workings of the alliance, and changes in capitalism. Then Sikwebu highlighted that there is a need to recompose the trade unions because they still operate in the old tradition of representing the interests of permanent workers whilst the labour market has changed, as casualisation of the workforce has become the order of the day. Sikwebu cited the SWOP Survey conducted with Numsa members in 2004 as it highlighted that 35% of membership joined trade unions after 1990. The survey’s results show that 55% of workers joined Cosatu after 1991 after the unbanning of political parties. The survey also found that in 1985 about 21% of members had been members since Cosatu was formed. Sikwebu highlighted that this survey further indicates that most sample members were not involved in community and workplace struggles.

In questioning the historical memory, meaning the previous experience prior to 1994 based on these statistics, Sikwebu observed that the 2004 SWOP study highlighted that 92% of its sample size had fixed-term contracts; that means that Cosatu is only interested in addressing the needs of the permanent workforce, not casual workers, although the recent campaign on casuals brought a few casuals into the fold. He also highlighted that leadership of the alliance was sympathetic to the struggles of eviction in Ekurhuleni, East Rand, and KTC in the Western Cape, and were sympathetic to the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF); still, this should be not be seen as the approval of the notion of people being given ‘mahala’ service delivery. He argued that the Indigent Policy in the municipality is meant to soften the blow of debt services for the poor whilst the ANC leadership continues enjoying benefits and receiving high wages. He also argued that most people don’t understand the workings of the alliance, especially those outside the alliance, and that it is only understood by insiders, whom he termed the ‘alliance of the insiders’.

In addition, he noted the survey he conducted in 2003 in one of the assembly plants in Johannesburg, which revealed that 68% of participants send their children to township schools and the remainder send their children to the Model C Schools. Sikwebu argues that, in view of this development, social movements still need to link up with unions, but they must be cautious of how this link comes in, and how campaigns are organised. Sikwebu made an example in this regard about the campaign conducted in 2003 by the residents of Phiri township, Johannesburg when they wanted to stop the installation of water meters. In this campaign, there was no proper arrangement for involving unions and no serious facilitation for making links. So, for the two tracks to meet, there needed to be greater understanding of the obstacles in both spheres, and old practices needed to be shared, Sikwebu said. He made an example about the new developments in the workplace as there are different types of work such as informal workers, home-based workers and casual workers; members of this super-exploited workface are also part of communities which are still shouting ‘‘Phantsi’ with forced removals’ (Sikwebu shouted), being evicted from their land. Sikwebu argues that this has the impact on the composition of new trade unions and new social movements as this link needs to consider all these changes that were not addressed in previous struggles.

Sikwebu also argued that there was a need for people to understand how the ANC rules South Africa, as the workings of the new rule are seen negatively; a particularly negative behaviour of leadership is that it only seems to be vocal on issues that affect their comfort zones. For example, the Shilowa Express. He further argued that people need to be aware that Cosatu partakes in coalition campaigns that are not only shop floor-based; for example, the Southern African Customs Union(SACU) participates through the Peoples’ Budget. He also observed that the ‘two caps’ theory of shop stewards is not visible in these new social movements like TAC. At the same time he highlighted that there was a need for trade unions to organise the so-called illegal workers from other countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique. If unions fail to organize in these countries, it will only add to the creation of super-exploited and vulnerable workers.

Currently, there is a big debate going on around the world about the global linkages of social movements, and Sikwebu pointed out that meetings in places like Mexico and Johannesburg have been traveling exercises for trade union officials. He cautioned that participants should not reduce such an important development to trips alone, but that this should be a platform to create global worker solidarity. He made an example about the situation where workers at VW’s manufacturing plant in Germany were on strike and workers in South Africa’s VW plant downed tools in support of their colleagues overseas.

Sikwebu defended his organisation by arguing that the alliance between political parties and trade unions is a century-old tradition that people must not forget; effectively he meant that there is nothing wrong with the current alliance between the ANC, SACP and Cosatu. He mentioned that this tradition exists in Britain, Australia and in other countries and this should be not seen as a strictly South African phenomenon. He further argued that the call to break the alliance is a narrow prediction of some of the insiders. He closed his lecture by arguing around the manner in which resourcesare distributed between the employed and the unemployed people. Sikwebu justified his argument by highlighting that the training regime of the Skills, Education and Training Agency (SETA) spent 80% of its resources by training already employed people and 20% spent on training unemployed people. In answering some of the questions posed by the audience he highlighted that we must not forget the role played by the joint action of workers and students, and I would also add the youth generally. He also noted that there is an ideological warfare in South Africa and argued that labour aristocracy theory does not apply to our situation.

In conclusion, the lecture by Sikwebu dealt with the important issue of unity between the fronts of the super-exploited in both trade unions and new social movements. Still, this lecture denied the audience any true reflection on the developments in the struggle for unity. I’m saying this because Sikwebu’s lecture turned out to be in line with a traditional style of the tripartite alliance leadership of glorifying their movements as the only force available in the social arena. This type of attitude will mislead some in the audience who have not had the privilege of being exposed to various sources of information, and that will eventually lead them to reach wrong decision-making. I think it would have been wise for Sikwebu to also explore some progress in other social movements concerning thriving attempts made in organising the casual workers. This makes it look as if other social movements are doing nothing, whilst the alliance has done nothing tangible in terms of addressing workers’ problems that they inherited from the colonialist white regime. For example, the black majority was proletarised by the white settler colonialists when they were forced off their land and forced to sell their labour, and that goes unchallenged by the ruling alliance. I think it is not wise to respond by saying ‘some people don’t understand the workings of the ANC’. Because currently the ANC continues preserving or entrenching the interests of the white minority through Joe Slovo’s infamous Sunset Clause, at the same time creating a bourgeoisie class out of a black minority at the expense of the black majority.

Sikwebu rightfully noted the rise of the new social movements but he failed to highlight that these new social movements face some new challenges such as a ‘changed’ political terrain; this new terrain includes both the former comrades who were seen as the true leadership of the oppressed and those who opted to massage the programme that was set by the defunct De Klerk - National Party. I also noticed that he spoke about the global solidarity which is forged through international conferences that are held in places like Seattle, Mexico, Johannesburg, and other cities in the world, meeting which have become a central focus for most activists. He failed to highlight that these local or regional or global social forums are mostly led and influenced by groupings of white liberals together with a small so-called black leadership. These groupings purport to represent the interests of the previously disadvantaged communities whilst they continue reaping from the colonialist set-up. This development was nurtured and championed by the so-called primitive accumulation and Kempton Park negotiations – the CODESA mania; white beneficiaries still enjoy almost all the benefits they enjoyed in the time of De Klerk’s rule and before. Even before 1994 there were a few so-called black leaders who were playing a in role administering the apartheid colonialists’ regime as Councilors in the townships despite its rejection by the majority of the oppressed populace. In addition, these forums tend to be mostly the arena of these black and white neo-liberals as it has become the stage where they test their theses as well as nurturing their fame within social movements. Furthermore, it will be wise also to consider whether these social movements are prepared to address what is perceived as the problems in the affected areas or whether they are just another form of making noise and marches to keep the black majority in high hopes of ‘things will better one day’. There is also a need to be cautious and scrutinize these so-called new movements at length in order to avoid a situation where they are just there to keep the oppressed making ‘noise’ or repeating the same mistakes that were done by the ‘old’ social movements.

Lastly, I would like respond to the call made by Sikwebu when he said we need to share the past practices of the linkages between social movements and organised labour. We need to note that first and foremost history tells us that capitalism was and is still public enemy number one as it continues serving the interests of the rich, and especially white, minority. Secondly, that liberalism was rejected on all fronts by the oppressed and is still rejected, despite the sudden about-turn by almost all of the former ‘liberation movement’ leaders who now lead the country. This leadership has accepted the goals of the National Party, the former oppressor, in accepting almost everything that was rejected by the black majority. Many of these movement leaders ‘hibernated’ in prisons and foreign lands and later were received with gigantic heroes’ welcome receptions, eventually endorsing policies that caused the blood of the black majority to shed. To add to Sikwebu’s call to revisit the workings of both organised labour and the social movements, we especially need to revisit the new social movements critically. I believe that this is necessary at this stage as we have learnt lessons from past experience with social movements, lessons which tell us that what the population thought would bring liberation actually brought a massaging of the same old sores of oppression.

 Tribute to Harold Wolpe plus links to selected seminar programmes
 A Tribute to Harold Wolpe 
 The Wolpe Trust 
 UKZN History Seminar Series 
 Articulations: A Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture Collection 
 WISER Seminar Series 
 Online Audio and Video Recordings: UC Berkeley Lectures and Events  
  Philosophy Seminars 



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