Habib, Jordan Slams Mbeki’s ‘Nonsense’ Leaked Paper On Land Debate

Leaked memo reveals Thabo Mbeki Foundation's opposition to ANC approach to land. PICTURE: Daily Maverick

JOHANNESBURG: A leaked 30-page writing on land expropriation, by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation has been met with criticism ANC heavyweight.

In the pamphlet, Mbeki questions the African National Congress (ANC) and its approach to the issue of land, saying it is not representative of its founding principles of non-racialism.

The paper argues that while the land question is an imperative that should be addressed, it also has to be done while simultaneously responding to the “national question”, which is to unite South Africans across race and class divides.

However, ANC veteran Dr Pallo Jordan and the University of the Witwatersrand Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib came out strongly against Mbeki’s bizarre argument while interviewed by a Johannesburg-based radio station, Talk Radio 702. 

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ANC Veteran, Dr Pallo Jordan. PICTURE: SowetanLive

According to Jordan, “the pamphlet is rather unfortunate because it has not enriched [the] discourse on the matter at all. Perhaps it distances the Thabo Mbeki Foundation from the incumbent leadership of the ANC and even dares to suggest that the incumbent leadership of the ANC has adopted a PAC position or at best an EFF position.” 

He went on to say that he “find it strange because in the preface, you see on page one, speaking as members of the ANC, so the authors or author sees himself as a member of the ANC. One would have expected members of the ANC to intervene in such an inter-movement debate from inside the ANC as an active participant in that debate rather than come from it as critics from outside.”

Habib shared the same sentiments with Jordan, he believes that there is a sense of hypocrisy in the paper and that the foundation is not taking responsibility for the time Mbeki was in power, but there is some substance to the argument.

“I think there is a level of legitimacy in that critique, where I disagree with Palo is the assumption that there isn’t merit in a serious conversation, I think this document is putting forward a very serious philosophical critique. What it is saying is if you implement the land question the way it is currently being thought through, then the net effect will be that present-day whites will be treated differently,” said Habib. 

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FILE PICTURE: Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand. PICTURE: TimesLIVE

However, Jordan came out in defense of his party by saying, “no one in the ANC is suggesting that whites should be discriminated against in the resolution of the land question. Just last week the ANC set up a small body of advisers on the issue which includes members of big business, agribusiness, lawyers, academics. The ANC is not approaching the land question the way in which this pamphlet is suggesting.

Mbeki had, through his foundation, questioned the narrowing of the land debate between black and white by the ANC and accused ‘his’ party as being led by the EFF. 

“The question is what should be done to acquire the required land without communicating a wrong principle that such land acquisition is being conducted because sections of our population must surrender land they own to others who are allegedly properly South African, whereas such landowners are, in effect, not accepted by government as being fully South African, enjoying equal rights with all other South Africans, black and white?,” Mbeki said. 

Meanwhile, Habib says, “think [Mbeki] raises important philosophical issues, I worry that the land question is too often managed on emotional terms by people and I can understand it but I think that if we are going to strategically resolve the land question then we do need a reflection that is deeper…”