Jamaica LANDS
Left Alliance for National Democracy and Socialism

Opinion Pieces

These are opinion pieces, written by members of the party. They may or may not reflect the official position of the party.

On Land Reform in South Africa

 

The government of South Africa announced that it would be seizing land from white farmers to redistribute to other people in South Africa, and that it would not be compensating them for the land that will be seized. Some persons consider this to be controversial, but we need to remember and understand the history of South Africa.

Dutch settlers were in South Africa from the 1600s, building plantations and using slave labour. The British eventually joined them. While they didn't get along well, they both expanded their territory at the expense of the Black nations that already existed. Most European colonies in Africa were just built to exploit labour and extract resources, but colonialism in South Africa had an extra component; more white persons settled there because they wanted to create a white homeland.

See, when most colonies in Africa declared independence, it was out of desire for national liberation for Black nations. Colonial governments were replaced by Black governments. In South Africa, the story was different. South Africa declared independence as a white nation, and it continued to have white leadership even when it was independent in 1910 and when it became a republic in the 1960s.

Black people made up a majority of the population, but the political system was designed to prevent them from having significant representation in national politics. The identity of the South African nation was white; it was created by stealing land from Black nations (like the Zulu and Xhosa peoples) that existed there before the white settlers arrived.

3 years after South Africa became independent, the government passed a law called the Native Lands Act. This law established internal borders and a system that is commonly referred to as apartheid. Black people couldn't cross these internal borders without special permits, and most of them needed to cross the borders if they wanted jobs. Black people were only allowed to own land in specific regions in South Africa; these regions made up only 13% of the land in the whole country, even though Black people were a majority of the population of the whole country.

SA Bantustans

Bantustans in South Africa & Namibia

The 2 shades of grey are lands that white persons were able to use, while the coloured patches are lands that Black people were confined to.

As if colonialism wasn't bad enough, this division of land entrenched the model of society where persons of different races had specific roles. White persons were able to easily amass large amounts of land because they were a minority of the population and most of the land was restricted for their use only. It was hard for Black people to own land because they lived in densely populated areas; most had to work in white-owned farms or mines if they wanted an income. White persons owned land so they could profit from Black labour.

This allowed most of the society's wealth to go to white persons, while Black people lived in awful conditions and were essentially prevented from amassing wealth. Even if a few Black persons were able to become wealthy enough to afford a piece of land, the law prevented them from buying land from white persons; Black people were only allowed to own land in specific areas.

Apartheid lasted for roughly 3 generations; it did not end until the mid-1990s. That is not very long ago, if you think about it. More than half of South Africa's population was born during apartheid. Most of the world's population was born during South African apartheid.

In modern South Africa, more than 80% of the land is owned by the white minority. It is unrealistic to expect the average Black South African to be able to amass enough wealth to buy large amounts of land. White farmers inherited it from their parents and grandparents who stole it from Black people. It doesn't matter if the current landowners aren't the same persons who stole the land; they benefit directly from the conditions and social dynamics that have been created by the land theft.

White South Africans should be grateful that the government has considered compensating them. Yes, the government of South Africa offered to compensate South African farmers for the land that they would redistribute, but the negotiations failed as the white South African landowners refused to accept the terms. The decisions are also being taken through parliamentary processes, in a system where white citizens of South Africa have the right to vote. When decisions were made in apartheid South Africa, Black people were disenfranchised from voting.

With the whites being spoilt brats and backing out of negotiations, the government now doesn't have much choice apart from seizing the land without compensation. The alternative would be to pay ridiculous amounts of money to persons who don't deserve to own the land that they currently do; the government would probably need to borrow large amounts of money from international institutions in order to compensate the farmers at market price.

Another detail that is often left out is that the government is not seizing all land that is owned by white South Africans. High-ranking officials in the ruling party have repeatedly expressed that the intention is to redistribute land in excess of 12,000 hectares; that should mean that white South African farmers would still be allowed to own up to 12,000 hectares of land. Clarendon, a parish in Jamaica, is less than 120,000 hectares; if there were just 10 farms of 12,000 hectares each, they could not fit there. Less than 0.3% of farms in South Africa are larger than 12,000 hectares.

 
 

White South Africans are not being kicked out of their homes, and there is no "white genocide" going on in South Africa; that is a myth being spread by fascists who have never been concerned with real genocides taking place right now in Yemen or Burma, and who have never cared about the evils of colonialism and how it has displaced Black people in multiple African countries. Hopefully the government of Namibia will soon follow in the footsteps of the government of South Africa, to give reparations to Black people in the form of land.

Despite the moderate approach, South Africa is still facing some backlash. The President of the USA has engaged in spreading rumours to paint white South Africans as victims. Recent declines in the currency value were blamed on the decision to redistribute land. This shows that Western countries in the modern world have not changed. The modern USA is the same country that allied itself with apartheid South Africa.

2 countries that seized land from white persons to give it to Black people are Haiti and Zimbabwe, and both have been punished and demonised for doing so. The state of Zimbabwe's economy is often blamed on how the country treated white landowners, ignoring that white countries placed sanctions on Zimbabwe. These same white countries refused to place sanctions on South Africa when it had the apartheid system; some of them were even openly allied with the South African government during apartheid.

South Africa deserves solidarity from Leftist, Pan-Africanist, and Black Nationalist movements from across the world. Solidarity should go particularly to the EFF and the ANC; the EFF has been leading this effort, and the ANC has cooperated with them despite their differences.


Read More:

  • "Only 0.2% of South Africa's farms are bigger than 12,000 hectares" - Business Insider
  • "Mantashe says farm land ownership should be capped at 12,000 hectares" - BusinessTech
  • "ANC chairman wants state to seize land from those with over 12,000 hectares" - Reuters
  • "South Africa moving to expropriate white farmers' land" - Al Jazeera
  • "ANC chair backs land expropriation without compensation" - Al Jazeera
  • "'Don’t be scared of the land debate' - Malema tells whites" - News24
 
Christophe Simpson