The issue of land in SA: Will Biden speak up for his ‘favourites’ again? - News24

10 November 2020 - n 1986, then Senator Joe Biden made a speech about South Africa that has recently garnered a quarter of a million views on YouTube. Joe Biden will, with almost absolute certainty, be the 46th president of the United States. Will that old speech define his policy to South Africa?

Gabriel Crouse 
In 1986, then Senator Joe Biden made a speech about South Africa that has recently garnered a quarter of a million views on YouTube. Joe Biden will, with almost absolute certainty, be the 46th president of the United States. Will that old speech define his policy to South Africa?

One of the most common retorts I hear from Americans about our country's travails is: South Africa is far away, it's poor and we mostly care only about ourselves as Americans. Unless, by any chance, you might have lots of oil.

But American indifference to global affairs is not the universal rule it is sometimes made out to be. In 1986, none other than Joe Biden cared profoundly about South Africa.

"Dammit, we have favourites in South Africa," he thumped.

"The favourites in South Africa are the people who are being repressed by that ugly white regime. We have favourites."

Are ordinary South Africans, oppressed by an ugly regime, still Biden's favourites today?
If so, he might attend to the fact that there is a major difference between now and 1986, namely all-race democracy.

At face value, it is credible to say that the government represents the South African people now, through the vote and our constitutional system of checks and balances, and the repugnant apartheid government did not.

And yet, scratch the surface just a little, and a gap starts to emerge between the interests of most South Africans and the ANC's rule. I am not just referring to the fact that only one in four eligible voters ticked the ANC's box in the last national election.

I am referring to the fact that the tripartite alliance, together with the EFF, has robbed us, the South African majority, with both eyes open, while pointing a finger at "white monopoly capital".

By one estimate, a third of GDP was looted during just four years of the Zuma administration. Rather than tackle corruption head on – no prominent arrests have been made yet – Cyril Ramaphosa ushered in his reign over the ANC with a call for expropriation without compensation (EWC) in 2017.

This not only led to a motion, tabled by the EFF and supported by the ANC in 2018, to amend the Bill of Rights, but also to support the Expropriation Bill which stands before Parliament now.

The Expropriation Bill will allow expropriation without compensation in some circumstances. However, according to the ANC's own polling, land reform does not appear in the top 12 priorities of ordinary South Africans. The Institute of Race Relations' demographically representative field surveys found that only a small percentage of South Africans, black, white, Indian and coloured, think the Expropriation Bill answers a top priority. Nor does the Expropriation Bill answer the calls from the major experts in the ANC's own corner.
Kgalema Motlanthe report

The Kgalema Motlanthe report found that paying compensation was far from a major obstacle to effect genuinely productive land reform. The Constitutional Court, in a judgment that took the extraordinary measure of seizing power from the inept Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, found that at the "heart" of our "colossal crisis" lay "the institutional incapacity of the department".

Ordinary South Africans know that property rights defend black and white owners alike. Ordinary South Africans want protection, not handouts, from the government.

And yet predators, be they marauding politicians and tenderpreneurs who pilfer the public purse, or common crooks who pick our back pockets on the streets, are rising in potency to the dismay of Biden's "favourites", namely us, the majority of South Africans.

You can categorise us by the shades of our skin. Many have and many will. But the fundamental divide in South Africa is between those who try to add value and those who grab. Grabbers are not even the worst.

There are fallists too, who prefer to burn than to simply take.

"These people are being crushed, and we're sitting here with the same kind of rhetoric, the same thing we heard. We heard go slow. We heard we have to take care of the problem afterward…," Biden said.

Yes, we hear it again and again these days, the New Dawn©️ will come tomorrow if only we bow down to maladministrators, stenographers and apologists today. The more things change in this hollowed land the more they stay the same, unless they get worse.

To be forgotten?

That has not always been true in South Africa, but since 2008, window-dressing collapse has defined a limit to all our projects. So, will we "crushed" commoners be Biden's "favourites" as president, or will we join the forgotten?

Will the Biden administration do what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did? Pompeo made it clear that no matter how big the US, no matter how much bigger the world, no Gucci boot would crush the faces of 58 million souls without notice.

Pompeo could not have elected a more germane place to plant the seed of doubt between the official narrative that the ANC as the "sole authentic representative" of our common interests and the bitter reality that our interests and our government have grounds for divorce.

It was in Addis Ababa in February 2020, in the heart of one of Africa's fastest-growing democracies, that Pompeo praised Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate Abiy Ahmed for his practical commitment to equality before the law, accountability, and clean administration. He did not give the "same kind of rhetoric" to us.

"Even now," he said, "South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation. That would be disastrous for that economy, and the South African people."

Notice that Pompeo did not say it would be disastrous for the "government". Rather he was speaking to what Biden called his "favourites", namely us. Will Biden speak, as Pompeo spoke, again to us, to our interest, to our hopes, to our desperate needs?

The YouTube clip finishes with Biden saying the following about South Africa in 1986:
"I hate to hear an administration and a Secretary of State refusing to act on a morally abhorrent point."
Will Biden's own Secretary of State act on the morally abhorrent point that is EWC in South Africa? There can only be one just answer, and the IRR will always pursue justice for this country.

Gabriel Crouse is a writer and analyst at the Institute of Race Relations.