Land Nationalisation

By Stephen Greenberg


ANCYL President Julius Malema’s recent comments on land nationalisation have caused quite a stir. The owners of wealth thought this topic had been put to rest with the passing of the 1996 Constitution, which secures private property rights. It is no wonder, then, that newspapers and magazines are filled with Professors and other experts proclaiming that nationalisation is not permitted in the Constitution.

That debate doesn’t concern us here. The issue is whether or not nationalisation will result in a more just and equitable society.

Malema has long been the bogeyman for the media, so it is not surprising that his comments have been received with such shock. But a level-headed approach would be to separate the message from the messenger for the moment, and try to consider the evidence for and against land nationalisation.

The truth of the matter is that the land was unjustly taken from Africans through a combination of stealth (land and property laws, the conversion of land into property and its private ownership) and violence (labour tenancy, evictions and forced removals).

There can be no peace without facing up to and dealing with this foundational injustice, the true constitution of our society and economy. Until this festering wound is properly treated, it will continue to poison relationships between white and black. Yet the formal Constitution enforced by law entrenches this injustice with the property clause. It is not new to say this. It has dogged transformation for the past 17 years. In this sense we need a fundamental constitutional change.

Land nationalisation is being presented as an approach to such a constitutional change.

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