The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has urged South Africans to not give any politician, no matter what party he or she belongs to, the power to dispossess people of their land without compensation.

On Wednesday afternoon, members of the IRR delivered boxes containing the signatures of 160 000 people who are opposed to land expropriation without compensation to the Presidency at the Union Buildings in Tshwane.

Head of strategic operations at the IRR, Sihle Ngobese, told media that giving politicians the power to expropriate, would be akin to going back to previous government regimes.

“What we are essentially arguing, in addition to that, is don’t give this current dispensation, no matter what iteration it takes, after 8 May [elections] – whether it’s the EFF, the DA or the ANC who wins – don’t give any politician the power to dispossess people without compensating them,” Ngobese said.

READ: Committee adopts report recommending expropriation without compensation

Ngobese said if expropriation without compensation is allowed it would amount to making the exact same mistake the apartheid government and “all other colonial governments” had made. He added that this won’t fix “the issue”, namely how to get land back for those who were dispossessed.

He said the real issue is not that government needs laws to take away property, but rather that the ruling party has not taken land restitution seriously. To illustrate this, Ngobese said that more money is spent on VIP protection than on land reform.

“Politicians have prioritised their own safety over land reform.”

Ngobese added that the IRR is not opposed to land restitution or land reform as that is an issue of justice.

“One isn’t blind to the history of dispossession in this country, especially under the former government regimes of colonialism and apartheid.”

Ordinary voices

According to IRR head of campaigns, Marius Roodt, the institute has been compiling this petition since May/June 2018. It contains signatures from ordinary South Africans who are against expropriation without compensation.

“Our polling shows that most South Africans are opposed to it and we must not give any government the power to take your property away without paying for it,” Roodt said.

Ngobese said the petition was simple and that all those who contributed, simply told President Cyril Ramaphosa what they thought of expropriation without compensation.

He added that this petition gives a voice to ordinary South Africans. The public hearings into expropriation without compensation did not do this.

READ MORE: Not all land will be expropriated without compensation – ANC 

“Parliament went through a process of public consultations on this issue,” Ngobese said, adding that the public consultations were “a bit of a sham”. 

“[People] were cajoled into polls across the country… [It was] not necessarily just ordinary people’s voices, [but] interests groups, mostly political parties were the ones dominating these proceedings.”

He said the overwhelming majority who had made submissions to Parliament were opposed to expropriation without compensation. “However, that is not a narrative that you heard from the politicians.”

With the looming elections, Ngobese added that people will take their decisions to the ballot boxes as another means of rejecting the policy.

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