South African president Matamela C. Ramaphosa recently announced that his government will expropriate land and redistribute. After taking over from scandal-plagued former president, Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa took a bold step aimed at decolonising land distribution and ownership in South Africa. If anything, Ramaphosa’s move differentiates him from his precursors. For, taking on land issues, Ramaphosa has decided to plod where many hate to. His move, however being long overdue, is welcome to many landless South Africans.
Talking about land expropriation is one thing and doing it rightly is another. Considering Tanzania’s same move in 1967–under the Arusha Declaration when the late Mwl Julius Nyerere decided to nationalise all means of production including land–South Africa has somewhere to turn to and learn. When Nyerere nationalised all means of production, he did it even-handedly. For example, Nyerere didn’t allocate any parcel or mammon to himself, his bootlickers, courtiers or the members of his family and friends. Underscoring the sensitivity of the matter, president Ramaphosa was quoted as saying that “the ANC has always taken care to seek to manage the economy of our country in a way that will advance the interest of our people.”
By looking at the steps and the manner Tanzania took, Ramaphosa needs to be cagey to make sure that his move is not coming a cropper as it was in the neighbouring Zimbabwe where land was used to reward loyalty. Land is a God-given wherewithal for everybody; and is very critical for human existence and identification among others. For Africans especially, land has inimitable spiritual connotation. It belongs to the living and the dead. Hence, the redistribution of land needs to underscore many things such as its centrality to human life.
Many indigenous South Africans lost their land after the Boers and British invaded and colonised South Africa. For many years, the invaders have owned and used the grabbed land to produce whereas rightful owners became squatters the very invaders used as cheap labours. Considering this, expropriating land without redress makes sense. What for shall the invaders be reimbursed if they grabbed the very land, owned and used the very land for tens of years? If justice were to be applied as raw as it is, they’re supposed to be forced to pay interests for the entire time they illegally owned and used the land. Though, there’s no need of embarking on punitive justice. Equally, white South Africans must accept a give-and-take setting by willingly relinquishing the land they grabbed, owned and used illegally.
Essentially, land expropriation without recompense in South Africa is one of the ways of bringing the closure to the injustices millions of indigenous South Africans have suffered for many years. Natural and social justice attests to this. Knowing how justice has to guide the process, Ramaphosa added that “if there is a matter that has caused a great deal of pain and hardship, and a result of poverty that we see in our nation today, it is the issue of land and education...” Despite the suffering white invaders caused, white farm owners seem to be unmindful of the reality on the ground based on historical evidence that their invasion caused much suffering for the majority South Africans for many years. For, they are now complaining thinking that they are targeted and discriminated against simply because they are white. Ernst Roets, deputy chief executive of the civil rights group Afriforum issued a statement noting that “the term ‘expropriation without compensation’ is a form of semantic fraud. It is nothing more than racist theft.” This is hypocritical. Ironically, when whites grabbed land from indigenous, on top of subjecting them under apartheid, racist rule, they didn’t morally appreciate the fact that they were discriminating against and robbing indigenous South Africans. Thanks to white supremacist and myopia, they thought that it was right for them to grab land from its natural owners.
Methinks; in expropriating land, South Africa must see to it that the colour of the person should not become a determinant. Like landless indigenous, landless white South Africans must be given land. Indigenous South Africans who grabbed land after getting in power, so, too, must relinquish the parcels of land they acquired. This basically is what Mwl Nyerere avoided when he nationalised all means of production. He made sure there were clearly and transparent criteria in addressing the issue equitably and justly.
Shall Ramaphosa expropriate and redistribute land decently and fairly, South Africa will become a point of reference for other countries facing the same crime such as Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe and others whose rulers betrayed the people after gaining independence so as legalise and internalise landlessness. I think; true independence is the one that encompasses all aspect of human life. Political independence without economic independence is not only incomplete but fake.
In a nutshell, South Africa needs to learn how to justifiably expropriate and equally redistribute land from Tanzania that fully supported in the struggle against apartheid.
Source: The Citizen today March 14, 2018.