OPINION | Land redress need not be a zero-sum game

EWC has become a political tool, a sledgehammer in the hands of politicians

While land redress is a genuine issue, expropriation of land without compensation has become nothing more than a political tool.
It is a sledgehammer in the hands of politicians who hardly care about what the fallout is, so long as they are … eh, hopefully, on top when the dust settles.
In this regard, the EFF has been ruthless in positioning itself as the champion of land redress.
But, in fact, it is not land redress that the EFF talks about or cares about.
Instead, it is expropriation of land without compensation.
They have been clear about this.
They identified the gap from the onset and took action to fill it, and now the ANC and pretty much everyone else is playing catch-up.
It’s hardly a novel position – it’s one of the central pillars of the PAC’s political position.
But the EFF has taken it up now because it has set its sights on power.
The EFF also made this very clear from the onset.
But rather than discuss the EFF’s opportunism, I would like to look at some ways we can view the issue of land redress.
Firstly, we need to agree that there is an urgent need for land redress.
This redress affects land which was taken away from African people unfairly, and often brutally, during the apartheid era.It also includes land which was taken earlier, during centuries of war and dispossession, by the colonial powers who came here to extract economic benefit.
But let’s separate the activities of the colonial powers and those of the people. The fact is, when all is said and done, the colonial powers cared only about conquest and economic benefit. They cared neither for the settlers – whom they needed to seal their conquest – nor for the indigenous people they found here and whom they viewed as an inconvenience.
So, there should be no sense of compulsion for anyone to defend the activities of murderous colonial regimes.
Secondly, the issue of land redress can be used to build a better nation. It does not have to be a zero-sum game.
Most indigenous people were agriculturalists in one way or the other. Even those who never took this direction but just lived in this vast country depended on the land for their livelihood.
This is why land is such a central, emotive and even spiritual tenet of people here. There is no hope of it not being so. In fact, Afrikaners were also inspired to love the land.
That they identified agriculture as a core economic activity, was by no means an accident. They saw its potential from the agricultural endeavours of the people who they found here.The Afrikaners then often displaced and subjugated these same people.
This was to the dismay of those who had thought the Afrikaners had found a home here and developed an endearing love for this land and her people.
But to return to my point about indigenous people being agriculturalists, and actually largely environmentalists, why not look at this as a positive?
Why not endeavour to strengthen the love of the land, and establish new agricultural training institutes?
Why not look at less intrusive and environmentally damaging methods of agriculture to produce more wholesome food, more at local level so that less transportation to markets is needed?
Why not build a whole agri-processing and export sector around these institutions?
Why not establish strong relations with existing and experienced farmers, support them and build on the value they have already created?
Eh … we know these farmers also love the land. Couldn’t we, in a sustained effort, cement, for once and for all, our centuries-old belief that all people are people and they need each other?
Thirdly, surely it is not impossible for us to build new communities – not only around thriving farms, but in and around our cities?
Couldn’t we design these to deliberately foster cooperation and produce new centres of value creation?
If each community was centred around new institutions of education, recreation, and spiritual development, couldn’t we build communities where people attain the dignity of meaningful economic participation and have land for living?
But, can we do any of this through expropriation without compensation?
The answer is simple: not if we want to create value and build a thriving nation!..

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