Farm dwellers at Boshoek in the North West stand next to houses demolished by the Royal Bafokeng Administration in this July 2013 file photo. Picture: SOWETA
Farm dwellers at Boshoek in the North West stand next to houses demolished by the Royal Bafokeng Administration. Picture: SOWETA

We know that a job on its own does not necessarily enable meaningful asset ownership, nor does it grow it substantially for most people, especially the working class. The rural poor are even more excluded.

In the ANC’s conception of economic transformation is a state that is an owner of assets from which it dispenses joy and patronage to the "masses". In this, the "enemy" is "white monopoly capital", a common mantra on our shores.

Seldom do we examine the other elephant in the room — the rural land trapped in tribal trusts and other colonial instruments of dispossession.

If the ANC’s current politics is anything to go by, then this system is to be entrenched as the party seeks the political support of traditional leaders. In short, black people for whom land dispossession has lasted for hundreds of years, shall continue to be tenants on land they should own outright.

If we accept the fundamental basis for historical accumulation of capital, then these people shall never acquire the capital that rightly belongs to them. Outright ownership of communal land by corporatised structures — that would allow them to pool it and use it as limited collateral or capital contribution in business ventures — would transform the lives of a significant number of South Africans.

Let us envisage this scenario.

Let us say the community at Nenga near Coffee Bay was given full ownership of its land, which includes some of the most valuable seaside real estate on the planet. While existing properties would be transferred directly to existing owners, vacant land would remain under the ownership of a landowners’ association, a registered legal entity.

Not only would it administer together with local government the demarcation of further residential land, but also the zoning of some of it for commercial ventures. The community would then either sell portions of this land and use the cash generated for further investment, or, preferably, contribute the land in those ventures to secure a shareholding.

In addition, community members would secure employment, while a viable market for skills development would be established. There is just one problem with this proposition and that is it would disempower the chiefs the ANC is so eager to mollycoddle.

Subsistence farming is noble but in 2015 onwards, it shall not survive. The fertile land already in the hands of black people needs to be consolidated where possible and proper agricultural ventures started. The capitalisation of these must begin with the transfer of the ownership of that land to these community-owned entities.

When we do that, we shall no longer have people who own hectares of land they cannot include in the calculation of their assets.

No, this is not about borrowing money from the bank. This is about giving capital that belongs to black people, back to them.

But, you see, the ANC shall not pursue such an idea.

Like many political parties before it, it has to contradict itself. On the one hand, it says it wants to improve the asset base of black people, but on the other it realises it has powerful stakeholders whose interests it has to place ahead of the same people it says it wants to empower.

Source: Business Day