Decoding South Africa’s original sin


THERE is a narrative that goes something like this, “in the beginning the whites stole the land.” Since all land acquired during periods of colonial conquest must be the result of criminality, it follows those possessing land today, are criminals. The accusations of theft by leftists against farmers are biblical in nature. An original sin, that has turned into a commonly used slur and epithet against all persons deemed in South Africa to be white.

Thus whether or not you happen to be one of some 400 000 white persons living in poverty, often in squatter camps, the same logic applies. The same goes for working class Afrikaners and English-speakers renting homes, also excluded in one sense, from a non-stop discourse streaming over television screens and talk-shows, which literally views the dominant ethnic groups in the country as the rightful heirs to all land in the sub-continent, and anyone not part of this majority group, as a less-deserving, other tribe.

In this fashion, first nations such as the Khoisan (a collective term for sub-groups such as the Griqua) are excluded from an intellectual debate cast over the new media, often flying on twitter, whose goal is the overthrow of the constitutional dispensation and its replacement by a custodianship system similar to the apartheid-era Bantustans in which petty chiefs ruled over a tenant population. The confluence of leftist ideology within racial rhetoric and ethnic overtones is almost never remarked upon by non-racialists in the ruling party.

Africans, meaning those with a preponderance of African ancestry, whose origin is central Africa and not the sub-continent, nor Europe for that matter, are excused by such news pundits, from the same moral and ethical framework used to criticize former advocates of white supremacy. In this way, a black person is never a racist as such and may be excused from deploying racism — sometimes awkwardly referred to at best, as ‘anti-racist racism’.

If whites stole the land, then they should all be grateful at being willing parties to future land confiscation policies, the details of which are currently being articulated by the ruling party and other allied groups. In such a way of thinking, not only is “land expropriation without compensation” a done deal, but righting an historical wrong, a tragic injustice, is more important than food security, financial stability and a reliable system of land tenure based upon the preservation of ownership and title-deeds.

How does one ‘unscramble the omelette’ of decades in which a property market based upon private ownership, and the buying and selling of land has existed, and has been the status quo endorsed by national government? How do we correct for almost three decades of democratic rule and also three centuries of colonialism, the tragic 1913 Land Act, while re-engaging stalled land reform projects from the previous administration?

The  controversial parliamentary resolution on land reform has been referred by President Ramaphosa to a special committee for consideration and the government is planning a land reform roadshow which intends to canvass public opinion in all the nation’s provinces. A similar international roadshow already underway, is having a tough time winning over investors. A 75% parliamentary majority is required to amend the property clause in the Constitution.

 

 

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