South Africa: Editorial Comment - Land Reform in SA, Idea Whose Time Has Come

29 August 2018

Reading Margaret Mitchel's writings where she says, "The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts", one understands why issues to do with land are emotive and contested.

Zimbabwe, if not the whole of Africa knows why this finite resource has become a battleground between themselves and erstwhile colonisers. For, land means everything from conception to death. This is why those burying the dead pronounce Ecclesiastes 3:20; "All are from the dust, and to dust all return."

But land is more than that. We build homes and other infrastructure from and on it. From land, we get the food that sustains us. From land, we also get jobs that sustain our livelihoods. Beneath the same land that God gave each nation, are the rich mineral resources that we take pride in.

If the Bible traces the land issue from Genesis to Revelation, it does so in order to demonstrate how important a resource land is.

Wars were fought and won; kings deposed because of land. And, this is exactly what happened in Africa, starting from slavery to the Berlin Conference where Europeans partitioned Africa and installed themselves the de facto owners of the land and the resources therein.

Liberation struggles were fought and won, but in a majority of cases, the coveted prize -- land -- remained in the hands of former colonisers. Impediments, including dis-investing and sanctions are used as the carrot and stick just to divert the original owners of the land from redressing the colonial injustices.

The moment Africa says it wants its land back, even in an accommodative manner, the West cries foul and they gang up against it. Zimbabwe is a typical example where the theft of its land was sanitised as Westerners went on the warpath attacking the land reform programme and imposing illegal sanctions for more than two decades now.

As the Southern African region is reawakening to the truth that fighting a struggle where people remain landless, while the minority you fought for stealing that land occupies 80 percent of the prime land and its rich resources is absurd.

If people died for that land, and the living and future generations will remain landless, living in poverty, what was the point of the struggle? Where is the freedom, if you don't own your resources and the means of production just because of so-called property rights? Do property rights only apply to the invaders?

It is with this in mind that we applaud the people of South Africa for finally taking concrete steps as enshrined in the governing ANC's Freedom Charter to redress the land imbalances.

They are now determined to expropriate land without compensation, meaning that they will amend their Constitution.

US President Donald Trump can tweet all he likes, but his Africa policy cannot be formulated, two years after he came into office, just because South Africans want their land back, and they are showing that resolve that they will not compromise on the issue. They dismantled apartheid in order to get back their land.

Making unsubstantiated claims in the infamous tweet that the "South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers," when he does not even have an envoy in Pretoria just goes to show how ill-informed he is about issues on the continent.

Thus President Cyril Ramaphosa and South Africans across the political divide have shown that Trump's racist and threatening tweet would not deter them.

President Ramaphosa told Trump on Monday that he had no business in South Africa's land issue, when he had never been to Africa.

Using the famous adage by former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, the South African leader told Trump to "keep his America and we will keep our South Africa".

Since Trump decided to deal with a diplomatic issue, undiplomatically, President Ramaphosa's response to the bullying tactics showed that the gloves are off.

He added in part, "South Africa is our land. South Africa belongs to all the people who live here in South Africa, it does not belong to Donald Trump; he can keep his America. He is even worse. When I meet him I will tell him."

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is also unmoved by Trump and his kith and kin as he makes it clear that land will be expropriated without compensation and distributed to the landless majority.

The EFF spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi responded to Trump in a tweet last week: "We are not scared! We are not moved! We know that Britain will follow with the same madness; because for them black people in this country must remain landless in the country of their birth."

Thus we noted with interest remarks by UK Prime Minister Theresa May currently visiting South Africa when she said, "The UK has for some time now supported land reform that is legal and transparent and generated through a democratic process . . ."

This implies that the West has to adjudicate every process taken by Africa. Threats of sanctions being requested by Afrikaners are a reality, and it's time the region united.

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