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South Africa: Bring Back Our Land

South Africa: Bring Back Our Land
White settlers still occupy the vast majority of South Africa’s land while the Africans live on squalid reserves

AFRICANGLOBE – On 12 February 2015 President Jacob Zuma announced that his ANC government would soon be tabling the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill, which will limit land ownership by South Africans to 1200 acres and will no longer allow foreigners to own land in South Africa. After 20 years, is this not too little too late and what will happen to land foreigners already own? Why did the ANC leaders abandon the land question in 1955 and chose to raise it now? Why was the equitable redistribution of land not even mentioned during the “negotiations” with the apartheid colonialist regime?

Why did the ANC accept a constitution that provided a “property clause” in section 25 for those who had acquired land colonially but said nothing about those who were colonially dispossessed of their land for over three hundred years? Why did the constitution of “New South Africa” allow land claims from before June 1913? A massive 87 percent of land was colonially expropriated long before this date.

President Zuma has said that his Rural Development and Land Affairs Minister Gugile Kwinti’s proposed plan to force farmers to share 50 percent of their land ownership with farm workers will be allowed. Not long ago the ANC dangled the policy of “willing seller, willing buyer”, a policy that failed as dismally as it did in Zimbabwe because white farmers just inflated prices and the government that was wrongly buying back this African land ran out money.

Cicero, a Roman historian and philosopher, wrote, “To remain ignorant of things before you were born is to remain a child.” Dr. Antony Muziwakhe Lembede, the first president of the 1912 ANC Youth League under whom people like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu served, advised, “One who wants to create a future must not forget the past.”

People who ignore historical facts are like a doctor who does not cure the disease of a patient; constantly dealing with the symptoms of the disease instead of the disease itself. Life must be lived forward but it can only be understood backwards.

Indeed, that great African-American scholar Dr. Hendrik John Clarke was right when he said, “History is a clock that tells a people their historical time of the day. It is a compass that people use to locate themselves on the map of human geography. A people’s history tells them where they have been, where they are now . . . more importantly, where they still must go.”

A Ticking Bomb

Most farmworkers work for white farmers who stole African land

The unresolved land question in South Africa is a ticking bomb. Those who colonised Africans must respond to the justice and truth this situation demands; something that would not have been very difficult if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not a fraudulent exercise in appeasement.

This land issue is getting so huge in South Africa that there is now not enough land for Africans to bury their dead and the ANC Government is persuading communities to accept cremation or to be buried on top of other people. This in a country that is not only rich but is four times the size of Britain and Northern Ireland and Africans bury their dead in the land culturally.

The ongoing land controversy in South Africa started with the Berlin Act of 26 February 1885 through which this African country became a British colony. And even though colonialists called it the spreading of “Western Christian civilisation” it was, in fact, colonial terrorism.

This was followed by the Union of South Africa Act 1909, which united the four British colonies of Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State to fight the “native danger” (African resistance against European colonialism) and immediately legalised racial discrimination against Africans.

The Native Land Act of 1913 was to follow this pattern of dispossession leading to the visit in July 1914 by Sol Plaatje, John Dube and three other leaders of South African Native National Congress to petition the English King.

The English king, whose country had colonised this African country, gave the African leaders neither sympathy nor any kind of help.

They returned from Britain empty handed. A London daily newspaper, however, was sympathetic and reported the plight of the dispossessed Africans in South Africa. “In carving out estates for themselves in Africa, the white races have shown little regard for the claims of the Black man. They have expropriated his land and have left him in a worse case than they found him … the Blacks as compared to whites are in proportion of four to one but are in legal occupation of only one fifteenth of the land.”

The 1943 document Africans’ Claims in South Africa and the Bill of Rights, by the Youth League of the 1912 ANC, under the leadership of Dr Antony Muziwakhe Lembede and A.P. Mda, reads:

“We demand the right to an equal share of all the material resources of the country and urge that the present allocation of 13 percent of the surface area to eight million Africans against two million Europeans is unjust  . . . demand a fair redistribution of land.”

The 1944 Youth League Manifesto, inter alia, states, “The white race possessing superior military power . . . has arrogated to itself the ownership of the land and country. This has meant that the African who owned the land before the advent of the whites has been deprived of all security, which may guarantee or ensure his leading a free and hampered life.”

First Freedom Fighters For Land

White farmers are ready to fight to keep the land they stole

In July 1959, Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, who had earlier played a leading role in the Youth League and was now the leader of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania along with his colleagues P.K. Leballo, Zephania Mothopeng, Jafta Masemola, Nyati Pokela and Selby Ngendane, paid tribute to all African kings. They were the first freedom fighters against European colonialism in this country.

But there are some honest white people who have affirmed land dispossession of the African people. Surprisingly one of these is Jan Smuts who was one time Prime Minister of colonial South Africa, who in 1930 confessed, “The mistake we have made in South Africa in the past was our failure in not reserving sufficient land for the future of the rapidly increasing natives (indigenous Africans) and the land problem we have in consequence on our hands . . . ” (J.C. Smuts, Africa and Some World Problems 1930, page 60).

For his part Sir Godfrey Lagden, author of The Basutos (1909) volume II, page 642, has written, “The active seizure, by force or guile, of lands actually in possession of the Africans, was a political blunder of the first magnitude as well as an act of injustice.”

C.G. Fichardt, who was a member of the colonial parliament in Cape Town, categorically proclaimed, “If we are to deal with the natives of this country, then according to population we should give them four fifths of the country.”(See Sol Plaatje — Native Life in South Africa, pages 339-340).

It is treacherous in the extreme that after 20 years of ANC rule Africans today have no land to bury their dead. Yet the country is full of golf courses where whites play their golf luxuriously and without a pinch of conscience for the plight of the landless poor. The present land policy, however, has failed because its architects have ignored the history of colonial land dispossession. Land is economy. All over the world land is a critically sensitive issue because there is connection between land and economic power and true liberation.


By: Motsoko Pheko

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