22 Jul 2019

 

Land, The Apartheid ‘s “Original Sin”, Haunts South African Elections.

"Though the geography of South Africa is dominated by agricultural land, black Africans own just 4 percent of individual farms; by contrast, 72 percent are owned by white people, even though whites make up less than 10 percent of the population.”

By Jacob J Akol*
 
As South Africans head for the ballot box today, for the sixth time since the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, the so called born-free generation, which never experienced apartheid at its height, are registering disLand, The Apartheid ‘s “Original Sin”, Haunts South African Elections. illusionment with the system and the party which promise much and deliver little. Voting after voting does not seem to alter their poor status and would therefore prefer not to vote at all, according to media reports.
 
In the concluding pages of Burden of Nationality, Memoirs of an African Aidworker/journalists 1970s -1990s, published in 2006, I referred to South Africa thus:
 
“In the Republic of South Africa, democracy, economic growth and racial harmony appear to be jogging along fine under the government of the African National Congress (ANC). But the gap between the very poor majority and the very rich minority is nowhere near narrowing. Unemployment is as much a challenge as is the issue of healthcare, greatly threatened by HIV/AIDS infections”.
 
It went on to say: “Shocking reports of white farmers treating their African farm workers contemptuously do quite rightly inflame feelings among black South Africans that racial bigotry continues long after the end of apartheid. Press reports such as ‘…a white man tied a black worker to the back of his pick-up van and drove around the town (Welkom) for more than 5 km, dragging his body on the ground. Pieces of his flesh and blood lay strewn on the concrete tarmac,’[1] 
 
“or that of another white man (a construction company owner) who was accused of beating up a troublesome black worker and later feeding him to lions: ‘Ronel Otto, a police spoke person, said witnesses had told the police that Scott-Crossly had beaten up Chisela, tied him up, drove him to the Mokwalo White Lion Breading Project, and threw him over into a lion enclosure. Crossly and his three workers then allegedly watched as a lion mauled Chisela and dragged him into the bushes.’[2] There are many examples of these grisly and racially motivated acts that have been going in South African since the end of the apartheid system.
 
 “But much more serious is the issue of land. With so much productive land in the hands of minority Whites, this single issue is most likely to derail any racial harmony if not handled with care and wisdom. So far it leaves a lot to be desired.
 
“Cosatu, the largest trade union in South Africa, was rightly outraged (by reports of continued White farmers ill-treatment of their African workers): Ten years after our democratic breakthrough, farm workers have no democracy, no freedom, no human rights. They are still treated as slaves and humiliated every day. South Africa’s farmers are ticking bombs. Unless we can transform the lives of farm workers, we will see an explosion of anger which will make the situation in Zimbabwe look like a Sunday school picnic.”
 
What has changed?
Journalist Christopher Clark of Global/The Atlantic, reported from Zolani, South Africa in May last year: “On the outskirts of this overcrowded township in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, Phumlani Zota, a 32-year-old pig farmer, sifted through piles of waste in a refuse dump beneath the Langeberg mountains, filling a burlap sack with scraps of food for his livestock. “There is not enough land here,” he told me.
 
Yet on all sides, the impoverished settlement was hemmed in by great tracts of white-owned farmland, neat rows of fruit trees and grapevines punctuated by ornate Cape Dutch architecture.
 
The disjuncture is jarring, but mirrored all over South Africa. During apartheid, Zolani was designated a “blacks only” area by the Group Areas Act, one of about two dozen federal policies that dramatically restricted black South Africans’ access to land and opportunity. Today, the township stands as contemporary evidence of the wholesale land dispossessions carried out by successive colonial regimes, from the 17th century until as recently as the 1980s.”
 
The Nation (Nairobi) added a few statistics: “Twenty-five years after the end of apartheid, racial inequality remains baked into South Africa’s economic and social fabric, and recently, the farming industry has come under a particularly harsh spotlight. Though the geography of South Africa is dominated by agricultural land, black Africans own just 4 percent of individual farms; by contrast, 72 percent are owned by white people, even though whites make up less than 10 percent of the population.”
 
BBC’s Southern Africa correspondent, Andrew Harding, reported on
30 May 2018 in an article titled: South Africans’ anger over land set to explode:
 
“In a country grappling with so many different challenges, land reform in South Africa has recently emerged as a dominant and potentially explosive issue - the focus of furious political contestation and increasingly inflammatory rhetoric.
 
"Africa is for black people. Period. We need our land back and we're going to take it by force," said a woman amongst an angry crowd trying to occupy a field on the northeastern edge of Johannesburg. Slow pace of land reforms have led to confrontations.
 
"Democracy?" scoffed a community leader called Mafasi Kubai, after listening to the pleas of a police captain.
 
"How can we participate when some are super rich and others are poor? Whites should be empathetic… but they are exploiting us."
 
'No longer about willing buyer, willing seller'
 
“Across South Africa, such scenes and confrontations are becoming more common, as frustration with the slow pace of land reform grows.
 
“And with it, frequently, is a growing bitterness about the enduring economic power of the country's white minority.
 
“The country's new President Cyril Ramaphosa - who describes the land dispossession of the black majority during the apartheid era as South Africa's "original sin" - has promised to accelerate land reform, with an early focus on unused urban land”.
 
Good luck!
 
*Jacob J Akol is editor of the Gurtong website media www.gurtong.net
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