Julius Malema and the land question

IN TODAY’S South African political scenario Julius Malema has become the most outstanding exponent of land and wealth redistribution in South Africa.
The leader of the African National Congress Youth League has drawn considerable criticism and resentment from a considerable chunk of the South African population.
Naturally most of these derive from the Afrikaner nationality and a section of the black elite.
On the surface Malema’s detractors, especially the black elites have beef with his attitude, accusing him of being tactless and rude.
They also believe he is not educated enough to discuss such important economic topics as nationalisation of the mines and land redistribution.
On the other hand, the Afrikaners fear Malema. They perceive him as an agitator who could cause the black population to annihilate them.
Their other fear is that the ANCYL leader could create a situation that would see them being dispossessed of their wealth, especially farms.
AgriSouth Africa, an organisation that represents the interests of about 26 000 white South African farmers, asserts that white farmers did not get their farms for free.
They bought them, it argues.
Malema’s stance is that South Africans of European descent expropriated land from the blacks through the barrel of the gun. That for over two centuries the black people fought for their liberation, and now should get back what rightly belongs to them.
Malema also advocates that the democratic South African government would never be able to address the dire poverty facing black people if economic wealth is not redistributed.
He asserts that the profits that are being siphoned off by private companies for private enrichment could be used by the government to alleviate poverty in South Africa.
Well, I, unlike my learned friends, prefer to tackle the ball not the man. Malema may be crass, loud or crude but I think it is what he is saying that needs to be dealt with: Is it true or not that the South African Afrikaner  community with the help of the British colonial government fought against all the African kingdoms and dispossessed them of their land from the late 1700s to 1913?
If the answer is no then Malema is mad!
Is it true that resulting from these wars of dispossession today we have a situation where 39 million indigenous black South Africans own less than 10 percent of South African land and that five million white people own 83 percent of South African land? (The total population of South Africa is 50 million, the remaining 6 million is made up of colureds and other minorities.)
As late in history as 1913 the Natives’ Land Act of 1913 was passed by the minority government of South Africa.
This act completed the dispossession of the indigenous South Africans of their land.
“(White) farmers wanted to take over the African reserves for their own use, eliminate competition from African producers, and reduce the employment status of Africans from tenancy to labour service. The Native Lands Act of 1913 and supplementary legislation in 1936 harmonised these conflicting interests, setting aside about one-eighth of South African land for the some 4 000 000 Africans… the Act defined less than one-tenth of South Africa as black “reserves” and prohibited any purchase or lease of land by blacks outside the reserves,” according to the book, Southern Africa: White agriculture and African reserves
Now this is the true story of the South African land question.
Those who stand opposed to Malema’s  redistribution proposals argue that when assets are nationalised and land redistributed South Africa shall collapse economically. What I have missed up to now from these detractors is the alternative they are putting on the table for us to consider. They just criticise and warn.
My observation is that there is no way this skewed economic status quo is going to last in South Africa. Malema is the most popular politician of any rank among the youths of South Africa today.  This is precisely because he articulates a generally held socio-political view among the young South Africans.
Former president Nelson Mandela is a great man for the hand of reconciliation he extended to the white people on behalf of black South Africans.
His policy of reconciliation was a good humanitarian gesture which should be appreciated for what it really was.  This act of goodwill should not be misconstrued to make permanent the malevolence that has been imposed on the majority of South Africans.
White South Africans on the other side must start seeing themselves as South Africans and do their part towards finding a genuine and fair solution to this problem.

Ramakhula is a freelance writer, historian and film-maker based in Maseru. He was an operative of the Lesotho Liberation Army in the early 1980s.

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