The land question is immensely emotional. The issues on both sides must be approached with reverence and careful thought.
A great deal of work went into crafting section 25 of the Constitution. The authors contemplated the three major vectors involved in this debate: redistribution, restitution and security of tenure. They carefully balanced the competing aspirations and rights that have arisen.
Pertinently, any system dealing with the land question, globally, is dependent on a capable state, and clearly defined rules – otherwise chaos results.
In our case, we’ve got the umbrella law – what’s missing is some legislation and most of the capacity required to give proper effect to redistribution, restitution and land tenure rights.
The Kgalema Motlanthe panel report makes these points persuasively, as do a number of other research reports and studies. What also emerges from the Motlanthe report is some of the instruments that SA has in place either don't completely use the funds allocated to them, or the community structures that are allocated land are dysfunctional. Then you’ve got the issue of precarious tenure for farmworkers, rural dwellers and the millions of people who’ve moved from rural areas to live in cities.
The point is: the infrastructure necessary to deal with all this is inadequate.
Then there's “expropriation without compensation”. Section 25 deals with it and nowhere does it say you have to have the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle. So, there could be circumstances in which it’s appropriate not to pay for land.
I’ve read the motion that was passed in Parliament on “expropriation without compensation”, the ANC’s conference resolution, and the president’s comments in Parliament. I believe what people are saying is one of the mechanisms for dealing with the three major vectors should be the acquisition of land on the basis of expropriation without compensation, and authorities must put in place modalities to do that. And they must do that in a way that doesn't damage the economy, the agriculture industry or cause famine. I see no difference between that and what is currently in the Constitution.
So, I'm not panicked. What society is saying, is that SA needs a conversation – again – about redistribution, restitution and land tenure.
In my view, what is needed is engagement between the social partners. We must make sure there is proper justice in the process, for people who don’t own land, as well as for people who do. Both groups contain both black and white South Africans.
The same argument applies to nationalisation. The real issue is that people are concerned about the allocation of society’s benefits and burdens, assets etc., and they’re concerned there are too many poor people and only a small wealthy elite in our country. This isn’t sustainable.
However, nationalisation is not the correct instrument to address inequality; international evidence is clear. Business should engage: let’s find a way to modernise and grow our economy, and how best to allocate society’s benefits and burdens.