South Africa land: a ticking time bomb.

Author:Commey, Pusch
Position:Cover Story
 
FREE EXCERPT

The plan in 1994 was to redistribute 30% of white-owned land within five years. It did not happen. Instead only 2% of the 87% of the best land in the country owned by whites has been redistributed so far. And time is running out. It could make Zimbabwe look like a picnic.

It will either be a mutually assured destruction (MAD) or a mutually assured prosperity (MAP). The key will be a concerted multiracial effort to empower the deeply wronged black people of this country, beginning with a fast track re-distribution of land driven by the people-centred African philosophy of Ubuntu (I am because you are). A lot will also depend on the willingness of white owners--beneficiaries of apartheid--to properly reconcile, and a commitment to put their money where their mouths are, and to make serious concessions.

The alternative is to lose everything in a revolution that can be sparked by the land question. Until Zimbabwe happened, white landowners in South Africa had taken Nelson Mandela's reconciliation project to mean keeping ill-gotten gains while blacks suffered.

Then Zimbabwe happened! It was a veritable eye-opener to a probable endgame of the economic apartheid that still reigns supreme in South Africa. The foundations of it being land.

For context, it should be said that South Africa (land area: 471,445 sq miles) is five times bigger than the UK and Northern Ireland (combined land area: 94,214 sq miles). So the 87% of the land in white hands (just about 40,000 white farmers) translates into more than four times the size of the UK and Northern Ireland. Yet, whites make up only 10.7% of South Africa's 42 million population. Blacks are 77%, Asians 2.5%, Coloureds (mixed race) 8.8%, and the remaining 1% described as "other".

It began with the 1913 Native Land Act that allocated 87% offer-tile, resource-rich land to whites and restricted blacks to 13% of barren land. Even then the blacks were forbidden to own the barren land allotted to them (they had no tide to it). This was consolidated by the 1936 Native Trust Act, creating a class of minority white land owners and a huge mass of pauperised blacks, primed for exploitation because of their weakened status. And then came the forced removals of the 77% black population to make way for white economic domination. With active support from the government, namely capital, expertise and motivation, and not by any inherent ability, large successful white commercial farms emerged. Not to mention the misappropriation of mineral resources that came with the land.

Traditional small-scale farming remained excluded from central planning and remained at the level of subsistence. Having no access to land and agricultural inputs, and suppressed by repressive influx control and pass laws, blacks were forced to become a huge pool of cheap labour for white commercial farms and industry.

Furthermore, "Bantu education" (designed to create slavish people) has meant that black South Africans have low levels of skill and knowledge in a sophisticated cash economy that was built to demand such. The house that apartheid built for blacks is marginalisation, endemic poverty and...

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