21 Nov 2018

Fourth Newsletter Part One: of three parts, November 2018

The Imperative of Land Reform and One Race

Introduction to The Imperative of Land Reform and One Race

“Community Needs, Not Politicians’, should Lead the Redistribution Debate”.

This is the title of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba’s article on the land question in the Sunday Times edition of the 23rd September 2018. The Archbishop’s ancestors occupied the land of baTlou of Makgoba’s Kloof in the Limpopo Province.

The Archbishop’s great grandfather, Chief Kgosi Mamphoku Makgoba, was crushed by a force of some 4000 against the Chief’s 250.  The Chief resisted the decision of Paul Kruger to parcel out land to white settlers, this in 1890.  The Chief had his head cut off by Swazi ancillaries working with the Boers.  To prove his death, his head was sent to Kruger’s General Piet Joubert.  It is horrific and gruesome.

I know now why many of our black African countrymen support the call for “Expropriation without Compensation” (EWC). For some it might only be meant as a wakeup call.  Another article that influenced me, was by Dougie Oakes titled “Long History of Dispossession”.  Both articles described how the land of their ancestors was taken in mostly bloody encounters.

I was brought up with a one-sided view of our history. To my shame, I have not made it my business to become more informed on the detailed history of dispossession.

I have collected some 50 articles from newspaper cuttings on EWC. The articles are from a wide cross-section of our population, many from the victims of this history, but also from top academics.

Prof Ruth Hall and Prof Ben Cousins both from the University of the Western Cape, Prof Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology University of Witwatersrand, Prof Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg.

Some articles were from top journalists (Justice Malala, Peter Bruce and Mondli Makhanya) others from politicians (Douglas Gibson, ex DA Member of Parliament), then Thabo Mbeki ex-President and Mmusi Maimane Head of the DA.

It is one of the impressive features, the number and diversity of the people who wrote articles on this subject. I also tabled an article but was not successful in having it published.  I did place it on my website in a newsletter titled “the Land question”.

I might have made acknowledgements and voiced sympathy, but I did not convey the empathy and even compassion that was needed.

Let us be clear about what these words mean Sympathy is feeling sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  It is placing oneself in another’s shoes.  Compassion goes further and contains the desire to mitigate the pain of others. These words need to be much more in our discourse.

I confess that my reaction to the land question has lacked empathy. The provocative call of EWC is probably what many of us needed. To empathise is not good enough and contributions need to be made as to what we do now to show acts of compassion.

A fully developed land policy, which is still a way off, should consider both emotions and practicalities. Words at the beginning of Archbishop’s article.

His words are well chosen, the dualism of the two words emotions and practicalities. It is in the practicalities where I hope to be helpful, some of my countrymen understandably are battling to be practical.

 “You can’t talk to the head when the heart is still hurting.”

I make my contribution as a committed fellow South African, my responsibility is to share knowledge on the way forward. My responsibility is also to stand my ground on what I believe is right for our future development…. social cohesion and transformation…..through a modern concept of economic prosperity.

Focus on the Future

We must answer the question…. what does South Africa need for the future? Not what I want and not what the hardliners want, but the country. Then we must answer the question what can we offer the country, both the hardliners and people like myself?  this to achieve the country of our dreams.

The first, if we consider what is happening in the world, our future needs are self-evident……unless we want to join the world of what Thomas Friedman calls the “Worlds of Disorder”. We need to be practical and build on what we have, a “World of Order,” this will not risk our future, nor Southern Africa’s or Africa’s future.

The second, we all need to adopt policies that have proved to achieve a better life for all. It is not following North Korea, Venezuela and other countries ruled by despots. They have in common, patronage and their governments enrich an elite faction.

The hardliners might also take note of Friedman’s words, “we no longer have political views that are right or left, but views that are open or closed, this in the modern world. That open outlook applies to both us, I have been guilty of living in my own little world, closed to the other worlds of my compatriots. Archbishop Makgoba has helped me change. Could I ask my hardliner compatriots to think of the other worlds in our diverse a nation?”

In the modern world to make land work for our whole diverse nation, it is not a simple matter of whites took the land from us, now we take it back – in the process we could risk destroying the economy, all being worse off. We would have cut off our nose to spite our face.

Appreciating what we have

The democracy we all share in, created by negotiations at CODESA, gave all of us the freedom to own land anywhere in the nine provinces of our nation state. That freedom is important, we can all dream of owning land, there is no law now stopping us, unlike before 1994.

The Constitutional Democracy gave us all the freedom of opportunity, the dual aspect of this is access to opportunity. In this complex subject land features prominently.

Below is an extract from President Mbeki’s moving statement; given to parliament in May 1996 on the adoption of the Constitution this when Thabo Mbeki was Deputy President.

“We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African. 

The Constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes an unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our African-ness shall be defined by our race, our colour, our gender or our historical origins. 

It is a firm assertion made by us that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White. 

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern. 

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual. 

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny. 

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regards to colour, to race, to gender, to age or to geographic dispersal. 

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, to promote them, to strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression. 

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people. 

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.” 

The whole declaration was titled “I am an African,” his words says it all.  One can’t help feeling nostalgic for those good old days…. they must return.

Let us be shocked into action to engage in land reform, but don’t amend something that does not need to be amended. Mbeki’s words remind us the Constitution is the social contract for all South Africans. Let us not be bullied into political expediency.

When Zuma says the Constitution needs to be abandoned in favour of returning parliament to be the highest law of the land, then one knows he does not trust the constitution to give the Zuma faction what he wants. He might know in fact that you cannot implement EWC without changing the founding provisions in Chapter one of the Constitution and that would require 75% of the votes and not two thirds.

The EFF might also know this, this might account for Julius Malema’s strange behaviour after being lauded for outflanking the ANC. Various legal commentators have made this point as well but have said we need to wait for the proposed amendments and the final word from the Constitutional Court.

The Constitution must above all be valued for what we have, not only providing the freedom of opportunity to all our citizens but providing the peace we need for all people to access the opportunities. This will take a lot more than the land. The EFF and the Zuma faction have been disingenuous in not emphasising these details.

The freedom that was won must never cease to be celebrated and valued.  It is a cause for gratitude.

“Gratitude, appreciation or thankfulness is part of moral behaviour and is enhancing to our physical, psychological, mental and spiritual wellbeing”.

Protection and safety of our land first

Even if one does not own land, and many whites never did, we should all feel concern that the land is not going to be put at risk of destruction from over grazing, lack of landscaping, deforestation, etc or just looted by landgrabbers; we are all owners of the land in this sense. We all need to have access to land, be it parks, game reserves, just open land and mountains, we need closeness to the land and all it harbours, trees, plants, insects, birds, animals and water.

“Closeness to nature and the land in its original ecosystem, undisturbed by man’s greed is a spiritual necessity for all of us.”

The South African Government agreed to 17% of our land to be protected as nature reserves. This commitment has been made to world bodies, whose prime purpose is to protect indigenous nature. Presently only 6% of South Africa is protected; this includes Kruger National Park. This should be addressed in our debate on land. Many private wilderness reserves help to make up this percentage, they are mostly funded by the private sector and include game lodges and wilderness reserves. It is an important part of ecotourism attracting overseas tourists in a lucrative niche for export income.

The redress for those disadvantaged by having been dispossessed of their land during the colonial and apartheid years.  A simple “We are taking back what you took from us” – this might satisfy the hardliners, but what are the consequences?  It is not facing the reality of a much-changed world, so we must come up with solutions that satisfy in general that middle block of 80% of the people.  Minorities to right or left are unlikely ever to be satisfied.  By the end of the three parts of this article I hope to have contributed to the pool of possibilities that most of us can share, building on what we have.

“Land on its own without capital, labour, knowledge and the will and determination will turn city land into slums and rural land into a wasteland” 

Ending of Part One

Part One of this three-part Newsletter could be an introduction to the theme of Land Reform and the advent of One Race. I have quoted from special people, namely Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Thabo Mbeki.  The extract from Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African,” celebrates poetically the acceptance of our Constitution.

In reaching the end of 2018, we see the dawn of a saner era. Both the leadership of EFF and the Zuma faction have been guilty of not referring difficult matters to our brain trusts. Leadership and Followership go together. Whose leadership are they following?

Good leaders are good followers

Neil Wright

Part two: Titled: Key Factors to Consider for Land reform and for one Race
Part two of the fourth newsletter will follow soon as a continuation of part one