A man holds a brick near the hostels in the Jeppestown area of Johannesburg where clashes broke out / Mujahid Safodien /AFP
South Africa has a land area of 471,445 sq. miles. The population is about 55 million of which 80% are Black and 8.4% are white. The rest are Coloured and Asians and they do not count in this narration and struggle for the simple reason that most of them have usually gone along with the whites. The white population is made up of descendants of Dutch sailors and officers of the Dutch East Indian Company adventuring to Asia in search of spices and other goodies to trade in. They put in a pit stop in the Cape to take in water and other essentials. They like the land and decided to stay. That was in 1652. The other part of the white population is made up of British colonial officers ruling the parts of what is South Africa today as part of the British empire. In 1910, at the end of what was called the Anglo-Boer war, now politically correctly called the South African war, the British and the Dutch, aka Boer, who had been at war, buried the hatchet in the back of the Blacks and created the Union of South Africa.
In 1913, the white population enacted the land act, which drove Black people off their land. By 1997, when the New Democratic non-racist constitution came into being, the 8.4% white population owned and controlled 90% of the land of South Africa. The remaining 10% per cent, made up of drought-punished areas were designated as Bantustans, land for Black people with their own governments.
Adding insult to injury and creating the unique colonisation of South Africa as internal colonisation, the white population made the Black population work the land for them under slave labour conditions. The ploughed the fields and picked the fruits. They also went down to the mines to bring forth the gold and the diamond for which South Africa became and remains famous. As a footnote, Bantustans did not own the minerals in their area, their ownership of even this dry area beyond six feet deep!
The African Native Congress, later the African National Congress began about the same time as the land act. The struggle of the Black natives has been around land. It was a case of land, land everywhere and not a single square metre for the Blacks. So, the democratic constitution paid attention to the matter of land. Section 25 speaks of expropriation with compensation taking note of what the land is being used for, the particular history of how that particular piece of land was acquired, its market value, the extent of state investment on it, and any capital improvement on the land. The ANC government interpreted this to mean ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ situation. Through this formula, concluded the new democratic government, 30% of the land would be redistributed by 2014. In reality, by that date, only 2% of the land had been redistributed.
And this minuscule in the hands of Black farmers were being sold, according to the minister responsible for this process, back to the white owners!
The question agitating the minds of those who care to think of the land issue is: how do you implement land reform better, within the confines of the constitution? This constitution insists on Just and equitable compensation. We are back to the end of slave trade and slavery. The slave owner was compensated and the slave was abandoned to starve to death. The question to ask is: Is compensation a prerequisite to land re-distribution?
What do the white population think of it all? In the first place, they are like the monarch butterflies that migrate from Canada to Mexico annually. It is not the generation of butterflies that set out that returns when the summer is over. This generation of whites did not steal land from any black person. They bought the land and paid for it in cash. In the second place, white people are being blamed for the inefficiency of the government as well as the inability of the government to find a lasting solution to the land problem.
The troublesome Julius Malema and his red beret and hard mining protection head gears wearing members of the Economic Freedom Fighters have been doing two things, one in parliament and the other outside the parliament, all over the country. In parliament they put up a bill to have section 25 of the constitution set aside. The motion was defeated by 261 votes to 33. Two members of parliament abstained from the vote. Is that the end of the matter as far as parliament is concerned?
Outside of parliament the Economic Freedom Fighters, have been telling Black people ‘if you see a piece of land you like, take possession of it. Nobody can begrudge you because it is your land’. We must not forget that the EFF visited the late leader of the liberation armies of Latin America the late president of Venezuela. They approved of the way he was leading his country. The EFF has also paid a praising visit to Robert Mugabe, the permanent president, in life and in death, president of Zimbabwe. Mugabe complained recently that Africans are never allowed to rest. They work until they die here on earth. Then they must work as ancestors from beyond! The EFF particularly approved Mugabe’s land redistribution policy and practise. He took the land from the whites and gave it back to poor Blacks like his wife, some members of his cabinet, war veterans born after the struggle was no more, and some traditional rulers who support his party. No South African Blacks have obeyed Malema and the EFF. It has been much easier to attack so-called illegal immigrants for the little they have been able to scrape together to make something of a life in the difficult South African terrain. Has anybody ever bothered to ask the officers of the Dutch East India Company where their passports were stamped with the visa for South Africa? Migrants without papers? Hi, suka!!!