12 November 2012

Africa: Afrika - the Other Side of the Coin the War for Africa Is the War for Land


"Forget the past. Focus on the future," and, "I too am an African" have become the slogans of many whites living on the African continent, while keeping all rights and the economy.

Twenty-two years since Namibia's independence, one needs to add to those unfounded, opportunistic utterings the United Nations programme for de-colonised, independent and sovereign southern African countries, the 'willing seller, and willing buyer' strategy.

Yet, in that process, the indigenous black African remains poor, without access to land and the economy and one has a mixture for a revolution. Throughout history it is proven that privileged rich and disadvantaged poor cannot live side by side. It gets worse, when all this is based on a history of bloody racial colonial-apartheid.

And, there is more in the form of the same old threats of disinvestment, particularly when indigenous Africans in their own land, on their own continent, dare to remind the owners of their ancestral land, which holds mineral wealth, mines and economy, that structured poverty through make-believe fronting by identified 'Black Economic Empowerment' schemes are designed to fail.

A new and thin black African middle class was put in place to keep the majority of their kith and kin as mere spectators on the sides of the economic playing field.

As Head of State and President of the ruling party, SWAPO, President Hifikepunye Pohamba wisely expressed his concern about a possible revolution for land. It is to be expected that the owners of the economy and their neo-liberal corporate mainstream media would immediately retaliate by issuing that tired declaration of an economic war. "Possible interested investors will be frightened off," the old yawn is immediately resorted to.

SWAPO Party's leadership is not only the democratically elected ruling party of Namibia. Among its committed duties is to lead its voter base, the poor absolute majority of the country, out of abject poverty and into economic participation with all additives that come with it. At the same time, SWAPO Party leadership has to wisely balance the position of a sovereign Namibia in SADC, the AU, the UN and the rest of the global village on the one hand and the dire needs of its electorate on the other. This is also called 'national security'.

In the above light, President Pohamba's warning against a possibility of a revolution for land is indeed a wise one, as he tried to caution the haves, not to push the angered have-nots through the wall of the squatter camps, where their backs have already been hurtfully squeezed. It is laudable that President Pohamba cautioned against a national unrest for land, as it was the case in Zimbabwe.

As the readers might know, the change of ownership of land in Zimbabwe has become irrevocable, no matter who will take over from the incumbent, Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF.

The war for Africa was and remains a war for land. It is an emotive, as much as it is an explosive matter.

Commenting on the land issue in South West Africa after WW1, the respected intellectual and humanist, Ruth First documented in her book, "South West Africa" in 1963, "When South Africa took over the administration of South West Africa, there were 1 138 farms in White use, totalling 11 490 000 hectares. She immediately applied her own land-settlement legislation to the territory. A Land Board was set up to allocate farms to new White settlers, and the land rush began."

First wrote further, "Lardner-Burke, member of the South West Legislative Assembly, told a 1935 government Commission, referring to the 'settler-farmer in the territory':

"A large number (of settler-farmers, having entered the former German colony in their thousands from the Union of South Africa) are ill-informed, obstinately conservative, self-opinionated, ignorant of finance, except in its very simplest forms, with their sense of obligation to the State distorted and spoiled by the ease with which they have secured financial assistance for almost everything they require. Deferred to by politicians and accustomed to being described as the backbone of the country, they have cultivated the conviction that, if they fall, the State must fall and that, in consequence, the State must come to their aid whenever necessary. There are 1 519 (White) settlers (back in 1935) in this country, the majority of whom are probably true to type."

Ruth First then points out, "In just over a decade the 1 519 had become ensconced in one-sixth of the territory's farming land and some of the most fertile at that. The newest arrival in the country, they had become the masters of it."

"Segregation policies initiated in the first years of the mandate entrenched for all the future of South Africa's administration a system of White privilege and non-White subjection in every sphere of life," Ruth First wrote in her 1963 book, "South West Africa".

First observed, "They were years of abundant opportunity for the White settlers, but lean and hungry years for tribes (the indigenous Africans). The state of South West Africa today is the legacy of those years."

Ruth First's sharp analysis proved to be correct beyond 2012. It takes determined and uncorrupted wisdom as well as humble human respect to address the ongoing war for land in Africa, including in Namibia, from which all sides would emerge as winners. It would be national suicide to involve the "former" colonial-apartheid masters. Many are known to act as proxies for alien interests, always attempting to destabilise the land that generously accommodated them.

• Udo Froese is an independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, born and raised in the third generation in Namibia of German colonial-settler stock.

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