In the most significant intervention by former president Thabo Mbeki since he left the presidency, he described the new expropriation without compensation (EWC) policy of the ANC in deeply unflattering terms. He clearly regards EWC as a betrayal of the history and the principles of the ANC.
An internal document of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, “not yet intended for public consumption,” was leaked a few days ago. In it, EWC is described as a radical departure from the historical positions of the ANC, encapsulated in the Freedom Charter and our democratic Constitution. Mbeki’s document highlights the dispute between the ANC and the PAC when the latter described a provision of the Freedom Charter (“South Africa belongs to all who live in it”) as a betrayal and splintered away from the ANC.
Mbeki says that taking land away from white people and giving it to black people suggests that whites are not fully South African. “The question is what should be done to acquire the required land without communicating a wrong principle that such land acquisition is being conducted because sections of our population must surrender land they own to others who are allegedly properly South African, whereas such land owners are, in effect, not accepted by government as being fully South African, enjoying equal rights with all other South Africans, black and white.”
What is striking is that Mbeki tackles the ANC and former leader Zuma while carefully avoiding attacking President Cyril Ramaphosa – when he might have done – despite the fact that EWC has become Ramaphosa’s signature policy initiative.
Mbeki is not taken in by the wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude of many commentators towards Ramaphosa’s repeated commitments to EWC. Some of the clever people suggest that Ramaphosa does not really believe in the policy and has adopted it to keep a section of his party quiet and undercut the EFF.
“It’ll never happen” is the cry by many who cannot believe that Ramaphosa is so foolish as to think that EWC offers any real prospect of dealing with the land reform imperative of South Africa. The fact is that it is the policy of the ANC.
Mbeki obviously does believe that the ANC is serious (if seriously misguided) and he sees it as evidence of the change of the very nature of the ANC: it no longer speaks for all South Africans and has become a black party.
In remarkably frank language he excoriates Jacob Zuma, describing the exclusion of white people as a vulgar and gross misrepresentation of the ANC’s historic position. This was a direct reference to Jacob Zuma’s call to the EFF and “black parties,” including the ANC, to unite to make up the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.
Mbeki pointed out that the ANC had always represented both black people and white people and, in any event, expropriation without compensation to redress the imbalances of the past was perfectly possible under the Constitution as it stands.
The other “black party,” the EFF makes no secret of its anti-white stance. It seeks only to represent black people and as the ANC trims its sails, moving into the policy vapour trail of the EFF, that party eats into ANC support. Ramaphosa’s gamble seems to have been a failure, at least up to date.
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) commissioned the first of a regular series of public opinion surveys. Published a few days ago, the first survey shows that the ANC has fallen to 52% support, the EFF has grown to 13% and surprise, surprise, the DA has not only not fallen back – it has maintained its vote and grown marginally to 23%. 10% of black voters support the DA. In Gauteng the ANC is now a minority party, having lost the majority it enjoyed from 1994.
One of the most important findings of the survey was that EWC is rejected by most voters. There appears to be a signiﬁcant section of the voting population that is amenable to the policy of expropriation without compensation. However, it is not large. 27% of all voters have not heard of the idea, and, of the 73% who have, only 30% “Somewhat” or “Strongly” support the policy. (25% “Strongly” support it). The proportion (35%) is higher among black voters. Opposition to the idea among minority voters is exceedingly high, with 69% saying they “Somewhat” or “Strongly” oppose the policy.
Of ten issues, the land issue is the least important issue in the estimation of voters, with only 6% thinking it is the major issue. Voters care far more about a string of other issues like unemployment, housing, crime, education and health.
Mmusi Maimane and the DA have kicked off their 2019 election campaign. The general election is expected to take place before the end of May next year. The contrast between the DA and the other two parties could not be greater. Where they are dividing South Africans on the basis of race, the DA is seeking and offering the opposite.
The DA choice of campaign slogan illustrates the point. "One South Africa for all" was announced as the campaign slogan. It emphasises the clause in the Constitution that promises equality for all South Africans and underlines the fact that South Africa belongs to all those who live in it, united in their diversity.
Addressing the voters where their major interests lie: corruption, crime, jobs, immigration and service delivery will top the DA’s agenda. It will be interesting to see in due course whether the differing approach of the DA, as opposed to that of the ANC and the EFF, will enable it to grow and achieve its objective of being part of a new coalition government in several of the provinces, as well as for the country.
Douglas Gibson Is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com. This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.