Pretoria Communists threaten 'Zimbabwe-style' farm invasions

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The Independent Online

The land invasions gesture, announced by the SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande, has angered the predominantly white Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU), the main agriculture representative body with 6,000 members, and the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition. Both groups have described the exercise as "grossly irresponsible".

They have demanded that Mr Mbeki publicly distances the government from the plan and stops it. The DA said: "For Nzimande to advocate lawlessness with what appears to be the tacit approval of government is not only reckless, but also reflects a worrying contempt for the law. There is no doubt land reform needs to be speeded, but this must be done without violating the fundamental principles of the constitution. Any deviation from the rule of law will sow fear and insecurity and will ultimately do more harm than good to the process of land reform."

The opposition demanded that SACP officials who are ministers in Mr Mbeki's cabinet - mainly the State Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin, the Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula and the Social Welfare Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moloketi - speak out against the plan and "make sure they rein in mavericks in the SACP".

Unemployment is at 40 per cent, creating a crisis of expectation. Some politicians see the fast-track, wholesale redistribution of land from whites to blacks as a way forward. Whites own all but 4 per cent of the farms and there is wide public support for redistribution. A 2001 survey of black South Africans found that 85 per cent of them agreed that: "Most land in South Africa was taken unfairly by white settlers, and they therefore have no right to the land today."

TAU members have threatened to use their enormous wealth to start an armed struggle if their land is seized.