Politics Editors Choice

Ex-public protector Madonsela tackles Moeletsi Mbeki’s ‘whites won war, they did not steal land’ remarks

Moeletsi Goduka Mbeki is in the spotlight for his comments in a recent media interview about the land debate.
Moeletsi Goduka Mbeki is in the spotlight for his comments in a recent media interview about the land debate.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela tackled controversial comments made by political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki on the land debate, in which he said, “there was a war between black and white people and the whites won the war. They did not steal the land. They conquered it”. 

Mbeki, who is the chair of South African Institute of International Affairs, made the comments in an interview with Clement Manyathela on 702 radio this week. With the land debate central in South African politics, he ruffled feathers.

Mbeki said white people, through colonialism, won wars against Africans and the prize was control of the land. 

“They did not steal; they conquered the land. The land that whites have in South Africa they conquered it. If I give an example, England was conquered in 1066 by a French group called the Normans and they still own the land in England. They did not steal the land from the English, they conquered by force of arms,” he said. 

The brother of former president Thabo Mbeki said though the constitution did not permit the system of “conquering” to attain land, western countries used the system to attain land in Africa through wars.

Mbeki seemed to have touched a nerve with his remarks as many people voiced their unhappiness with his opinion on social media.

Joining the debate was Madonsela. Though she initially thought someone misheard Mbeki during the interview, she disagreed with his sentiments.

“Most land was not won through conquest. Some was gifted. Some was acquired through stealth (for example, sales that were not understood, but most land was stolen through legislation such as the Glen Grey Act, Natives Land Act and the Group Areas Act),” she said.

Laws were used to steal land from Africans during colonialism and apartheid.

“Conquest is when during armed conflict the winner takes the loser’s land. Theft was when the government of the Cape used the law to steal land and livestock of indigenous Africans using the Glen Grey Act, poll tax and pound laws and gave that to whites,” she said.

“Theft was when the government of South Africa stole land from Africans through the 1913 Land Act and gave it to whites. Theft was when through the Group Areas Act of 1950 the government stole land and other movable property from Indians, coloureds and Africans and gave it to whites. Theft was when on the eve of democracy, land belonging to the state was quickly siphoned away in 99-year leases to state functionaries and proxies. The list goes on.

“I must indicate that since the advent of international law, particularly the 1945 UN Charter and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even conquest does not entitle you to steal another people’s or nation’s land.”

Listen to the full interview here (Mbeki speaks about land in the last 10 minutes of the interview.)

Here are some reactions from social media: 



Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.