DA land policy is grounded in principle

In his opinion piece on the DA (“Land: The DA speaks out of both sides of its mouth”) Freedom Front Plus (FF+) newcomer, Lourie Bosman, posts that political parties must focus exclusively on the interests of a particular group of voters.

know your DA 1

Minorities, according to Mr Bosman, must first fight tooth and nail for their own cause, and when they lose this battle (as a minority party surely will) they can consider cooperation with other parties.

What nonsense. The crux of Bosman’s argument is that minorities have nothing in common with their fellow South Africans. He supposes that there are no shared values around which South Africans can mobilise across racial- or language lines.

Much like the party he ran to in desperation after failing make the grade at the DA, Bosman now believes that the differences between South Africans are more important than their shared dreams and common objectives.

To date, the Freedom Front’s “cooperation” with other parties appears to be limited to securing a cabinet post for party leader Pieter Mulder. Mulder is yet to deliver anything tangible benefits to his voters from this compromised position.

It is deeply ironic that the FF+ asks its voters to “stand together” against a racially-based majority, only to give those votes to the ANC on a silver platter. The FF+ has never had any success from “the inside”.

Mulder avoids voting in parliament on legislation proposed by his own department. If he manages to insert himself in the cabinet again, he will have to help with the implementation of the very legislation which his party is supposedly opposed to. And because he needs Jacob Zuma to keep his well-paid post, he would not be able to say boo to a goose about “minority issues”.

The DA and its supporters think differently. The party grows in every election because our positions resonate with the values of voters who are committed to freedom, equality and opportunities for all South Africans.

We are bound by the Constitution which states that South Africa “belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” We are hopeful about South Africa’s future and about the impact that could be made by a new majority which is based on shared convictions and agreement on the best way to take the country forward.

The difference in the approaches of the DA and FF+ is also highlighted in the way in which they handle the legislative processes in parliament. The FF+ makes a big ruckus within their limited sphere of influence, they point out obvious problems and offer scant contributions on how these problems can be solved.

In turn, the DA considers legislation with due consideration for the Constitution, party policy and the potential impact of a bill on the country’s development goals – particularly as it pertains to growth, job creation and poverty alleviation.

The DA’s policies on land and agriculture highlights every single one of the “negative consequences” of poorly managed land restitution which Bosman mentions in his opinion piece. One has to wonder whether he in fact consulted the DA’s policy documents as a source for his writing.

We talk to the negative impact of continued uncertainty within the agriculture sector. We emphasize the fact that land reform policy must give due consideration to food security.

We ask that better, more focussed support be given to the ever diminishing pool of commercial farmers. We point out that uncertainty regarding land rights discourages investment in agriculture businesses.

DA honour your past

We show that 90% of land reform projects fail. And we argue that the Department of Land Reform’s poor management practices have led to the current situation where large portions of the budget reserved for land reform has to be spent on the recapitalisation of failed projects.

But the right to restitution is a constitutional right, and this is where the FF+’s argument falls flat. They make no recommendations as to how this right will be realised, and they make no suggestions on how the process can be better managed to negate or limit the negative effects of the first problematic restitution process.

In contrast to this, the DA fought for better legislation. The DA supports an orderly land reform programme that compensates people for verified past dispossession. We therefore supported the re-opening of restitution claimsin principle because we recognise that people who were deprived of the right to lodge a verifiable land claim before the 1998 deadline should not be penalised because of the State’s poor management of this first process.

This support has, however, never been unconditional. We said from the outset that claims cannot be reopened if the state did not have the necessary capacity and financial resources to conclude the processing of claims quickly and efficiently.

Indeed, up until the very last parliamentary debate on the Restitution Bill, we continued to make recommendations to ensure that a new restitution process does not ruin the agricultural sector.

We asked that the window period for the submission of claims must be dramatically shortened; that any claimant who did not meet the first deadline must provide a valid reason for why a claim was not previously submitted; that claims must not reopened before the necessary funds were available; that the disruption of agricultural production should be avoided by using state land to settle claims wherever possible; that claimants and affected landowners must get state-funded legal representation; that the verification of claims must be handled by an independent body; and that all claims must be settled by a predetermined deadline in order to limit continued uncertainty in the agriculture sector.

These proposals were rejected by the ANC. The DA consequently, and without reservation, voted against the legislation.

That the reopening process was merely an ANC election stunt, is evident from the 2014 national budget, in which the funding for restitution was actually decreased.

da-election-poster-2011

Land will always be an emotional issue in South Africa. But the political pressure around land will not disappear simply because it is difficult to balance the different interests in the land debate.

The FF+ takes a passive approach of highlighting well-known problems without providing any feasible alternatives.

The DA will continue to work hard to find workable, sustainable answers to the land question.

Annette Steyn, MP is DA Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Kevin Mileham, MP, DA Shadow Minister for Land Reform

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