ANC and the land question in South Africa

Motsoko Pheko Correspondent
The whole point of the freedom struggle was the repossession of land by African people from the hands of Europeans who had grabbed it. But the ruling ANC will never resolve the land question in South Africa. Its “Freedom Charter” long renounced the land question in 1955. Its “willing seller and

willing buyer” policy is an unmitigated disaster.

During elections in South Africa in 1994, the American government heavily financed the ANC. In addition President Bill Clinton organised Stanley B. Greenberg and Frank Geer to direct the ANC election campaign. These were Clinton’s own pollster and image-maker respectively in the American elections.

In his book, “Dispatch From The War Room”, Greenberg writes: “The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) was the only other party with standing in the anti-apartheid struggle and thus a majority of Africans viewed it favourably. . . The PAC boycotted the elections with de Klerk. . . and when it joined. . . advocated expropriation of white land without compensation.”

In my book, “The Hidden Side Of South African Politics”, I have pointed out that: “The truth of the matter is that the Pan Africanist Congress policy was to compensate for improvements made on the land, but not buy back their own land that was colonially expropriated from African people. The historical fact is that it is European colonial settlers who expropriated land from Africans.”

Honest Europeans

After observing what colonialists were doing to Africans in Africa, William Ellis, a British humanitarian, made references to “especially seizing the land of the people whose country we may colonise and the expulsion of or annihilation of its rightful possessors. It has been our custom to go to a country, and because we were stronger militarily than the inhabitants, to take and retain possession of the country, to which we had no claim, but to which they had the most inalienable right.”

Thomas Farewell Buxton of the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Society in England acknowledged this point when in 1926 wrote; “My attention has been drawn to the wickedness of our proceedings as a nation towards. . .the natives of countries we seize. We have usurped their lands, kidnapped and enslaved them. Their greatest crime is the LAND of their forefathers.”

King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho in 1859 said; “The white people seem to be bent on proving that in politics Christianity has no part. . . It may be you white people do not steal cattle, but you steal whole countries; and if you had your wish you would send us to pasture our cattle in the clouds. . .Whites are stealing Blackman’s land in the Cape Colony to here [Free State, which was part of Lesotho].”

Prince Maqoma of the Xhosa-speaking Africans in the Cape Colony was imprisoned on Robben Island by the British colonial government in 1859. He had clearly told a colonial soldier, Colonel Wade, that: “We (Africans) are to have land again. It was bequeathed to us by our ancestors; to hold, nurture and make it productive for their progeny. . .You came out of the sea to our land. Like a serpent you emerged from the water. . . Besides you had no tongue to speak to us. We waited to know why you had come. Instead we heard you are settling and taking possession of our land.

“But this is our land. You made us vanish, not exist. Our land is us. We are our land. . . From the sea you had no cattle. Now you have many cows and sheep. . . War you made to dispossess us. . .Blood you spilled, to take even more land. We cannot give up. We cannot rest. Without land, we cannot be.” This African Prince hero died in Robben Island mysteriously in 1873. He was 75 years old.

In 1652, King Domas of the Khoi Africans also had a confrontation with colonial terrorists. He asked Jan van Riebeeck from Holland who had claimed African land: “Who with the greatest degree of justice should give way to land, the natural owner, or the foreign invader?” He added; “If we (Africans) were to come to Europe, would we be permitted to act in a similar manner you act here? It would not matter if you stayed at the ‘provision’ station (at Table Mountain on your way to Asia for trade in spices), but you come out here to the interior. You select the best land for yourselves. You never ask us even once if we like it or whether it will disadvantage us.”

The question of land dispossession of Africans by European colonialists was an unprecedented tragedy for Africans together with its twin sister, the European Trans Atlantic Slave Trade on Africans. In 2000 a Kenyan presidential candidate Mr. Koigi Mamwere commented on the issue of land dispossession including in South Africa.

He said: “Today, Europeans own almost all land in the Americas, almost all good land in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, and almost the best land in African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. To acquire this land outside Europe, Europeans did not use law, justice and money. They took the land and its riches with the gun. . . ”

Colonialists were brutal and almost devoid of human conscience. Earl Glen, a British colonial official, defended the insidious racism of dispossessing Africans of their land unashamedly. He declared; “The African people are generally looked upon by whites as an inferior race, whose interests ought to be systematically disregarded, when they came into competition with their own and should be governed mainly with a view to the advantage of the superior race. . . For this advantage, two things should be afforded to white colonists for obtaining the possession of land. . . Secondly the Kaffir population should be made to furnish as large and as cheap a supply of labour as possible.”

ANC policy on land

In 1994 the ANC became the ruling party in a “government of national unity” with the apartheid Nationalist Party. This was under the Eurocentric constitution which in Section 25(7), in particular, confined the indigenous African majority to land they were allocated in 1913 and 1936. This was 13 percent of the land. But even from this small piece of land for Africans, land had been confiscated by the apartheid colonialist regime under the Group Areas Act 1950. Through the Restitution of Land Rights Act 1994, Africans could claim land they had lost from this 13 percent. They were, however, to do so quickly because 31 December 1998 was the deadline.

Consequently, many claimants were left out. The ANC government came up with the policy of “willing seller and willing buyer.” Many Africans found it unjust and ridiculous that they should now buy their own land which was taken from them with colonial guns.

This injustice and insult to the intelligence of the African people prompted Daniel Mokonyane, a veteran freedom fighter, lawyer, academic and author of the book “SELL OUT” to write: “This is just as the crude spectacle of a rapist who comes to the scene of his nefarious act and demands payment for loss of his semen and exertion.”

From numerous wars of national resistance against colonialism in 1656 to 1905, the repossession of African land by the colonially dispossessed was the core of the national liberation struggle. African Kings such Hintsa, Dingane, Cetshwayo, Makana, Moshoeshoe, Sekhukhuni, Soshangane, Mphepu, Makado and many others fought to preserve the country for their people.

That is why Mang’aliso Robert Sobukwe, the president of the Pan Africanist Congress who was imprisoned on Robben Island and banished until he died of poisoning in1978, spoke about the first freedom fighters in this country — the African Kings. Sobukwe reminded:

“Sons and daughters of Africa, we are today going down the corridor of time and renewing our acquaintance with the heroes of Africa’s past — those men and women who nourished the tree of African freedom and independence with their blood, those great Sons and Daughters of Africa who died in order that we may be free in the land of our birth.

“We meet here today, to rededicate ourselves to the cause of Africa, to establish contact beyond the grave, with the great African heroes and assure them that their struggle was not in vain. We are met here Sons and Daughters of the beloved land to drink from the fountain of African achievement, to remember the men and women who begot us, to remind ourselves of where we come from and restate our goals.

“We are here to draw inspiration from the heroes of Thababosiu, Isandlwana, Sandile’s Kop and numerous other battlefields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invader….”

After the British colonial government had given its 349,837 European settlers 93 percent of African land through its imperialist law, the Native Land Act 1913, and allocated five million indigenous Africans a shameful 7 percent of their own land, five leaders of the South African Native National Congress (S.A.N.N.C) with a mandate from African Kings and people were sent to petition King George V of England, the coloniser of Azania (South Africa). They went to London. They demanded that Africans “be put in possession of land in proportion to their numbers and on the same condition as the white race.” King George V and his government did absolutely nothing about this.

A London daily newspaper, however, reported the meeting of this African delegation. It was composed of Dr. John “Mafukuzela” Dube, Solly Plaatje, Dr R.W. Rubusana and two others. This publication said: “In carving out estates for themselves in Africa, the white races have shown no regard for the claims of the black man. They have appropriated his LAND and have taken away his economic freedom and left him in a worse case than they found him. . . That the African has been dispossessed may be illustrated from the facts in regard to the Union of South Africa. Here blacks compared with whites are in proportion of four to one, but are in legal occupation of only one fifteenth of their land. . . the deputation of Native leaders now in England have appealed to the imperial government for the suspension of the Native Land Act 1913.”

Leaders of the S.A.N.N.C returned home empty-handed from King George, but continued to insist on land repossession. In its meeting held in Pietermaritzburg on 20 October 1916, the S.A.N.N.C passed a resolution objecting “to the parcelling of land into private farms for whites and demanded land remain a permanent reserve for the original owners.”

Article 19 of the Constitution of the South African Native National Congress stated that one of the main objectives of the S.A.N.N.C was “the safeguarding of the interests of African people” (the colonised owners of the land). The president of the S.A.N.N.C, the Rev. Sefoka Makgatho, is on record many times declaring, “We ask no special favours from the colonial government. This is the land of our forefathers.”

In 1923 the S.A.N.N.C changed its name to African National Congress. But it never changed the nature of its anti-colonial struggle and for equitable redistribution of land according to population numbers.

Land dispossession in “new” South African constitution

Section 25(7) of the South African Constitution has consolidated the Native Land Act 1913. During the 1993 negotiations with the beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid, the landlessness and colonial dispossession of the African people were left intact. In the South African Parliament this writer, on behalf of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), called for the amendment of the present constitution with regard to Section 25, especially sub-section 7. He raised this land issue for ten years. The ANC rejected this. PAC and AZAPO Members of Parliament offered their votes for a two-thirds majority to change the constitution; to rectify the land dispossession of the African people. The ANC rejected this. This writer proposed that there be at least a moratorium on sale of land to foreigners. This was also rejected by the ANC in Parliament. They went out of their way to say that even if they got two-thirds majority in Parliament, they would never change the present constitution on land. Today over 3000 large farms are reported to be owned by Britain, France, Germany and Canada. And of course, all mines of gold, platinum diamonds etc are controlled by those who own the land colonially.

Now in February 2016 President Jacob Zuma, in his State of The Nation address talked about land expropriation. Is this another dummy or ploy to lull Africans into a false sense of security over their land dispossession? The ANC abandoned the land question in 1955 when it dumped the objectives of the 1912 ANC and merely used the name “ANC.”

The ANC will never resolve land question in South Africa. Its “Freedom Charter” long renounced the land question. Its “willing seller and willing buyer” policy is an unmitigated disaster. Its CODESA negotiators did not even try to negotiate on land. Its “expropriation” of land too will fail. Why? Because the ANC leaders do not know to whom this African country belongs.

In 1988 an official of the ANC, Francis Meli, was assigned to write the authorised history of the ANC. The title of his book was “South Africa Belongs To Us.” The author sat on the fence concerning who was this “US”. A reviewer of the book had to write: “Even in a book like this, the ANC does not spell out to whom it believes the country belongs. At the end of reading “South Africa Belongs To Us”, we still do not know to whom the ANC believes the land belongs.” (South Africa Belongs To Us: A History Of The ANC, by Francis Meli, Zimbabwe House Review — October-November 1988)

Today, in many parts of the country the ANC government has plans “to exhume human remains from cemeteries and bury them in mass graves to make room for new burials.” This is repugnant to African culture. So even the dead are now being dispossessed of land.

Anyway, Prince Maqoma who the colonial regime imprisoned on Robben Island for fighting for the return of land to the colonially dispossessed Africans had spoken: “We are to have the land again. . . Our land is us. . . Without land we cannot be.”

— Pambazuka.

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