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    Features

    The root of black landlessness in South Africa

    Motsoko Pheko

    2012-11-14, Issue 606

    http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85442

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    The ‘New South Africa’ or ‘Rainbow Nation’ is today a country of two nations: one is the extremely rich white settler minority and the other is the extremely poor African indigenous majority. All this thanks to a land law passed a hundred years ago.

    AGRI TV: Section 1(a) of the Native Land Act 1913 reads as follows: ‘a native shall not enter into agreement or transaction for the purchase...from a person other than a native, of any such land.’ Can you explain to us what this means, and what the implications were for the so-called ‘Natives?’

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: This means that the native was allowed to purchase land only from other natives, not from non-natives who were European settlers now colonially allocated 93 percent of the African country and its mineral wealth. Africans could purchase land from one another only from 7 percent of the land allocated to the Africans. It must be remembered that the Native Land Act of 1913 was precipitated by the fact that during the 1911 harvest some African farmers had garnered 3,000 bags of wheat while European settler farmers had reaped a mere 300 to 400 bags of wheat. African farmers’ produce kept mills busy in places such as Ficksburg, Klerksdorp and Zeerust. African export business was looming in the not distant future.

    As Sol Plaatje, the First Secretary of the 1912 ANC wrote colonialists asked, ‘Where will we get servants if Kaffirs (Africans) are allowed to become skilled? A Kaffir with a thousand bags of wheat? What will he do with the money? If they (Africans) are inclined to herd pedigree stock, let them improve their masters’ (colonial settlers) cattle and cultivate for the land owner- not for themselves.’

    Earlier, Earl Glen a British colonial official had said, ‘The natives (Africans) are generally looked upon by Whites as an inferior race, whose interests must be systematically disregarded when they come into competition with their own. Natives must be governed mainly with a view to the advantage of the superior race. Two things should be afforded to white colonists obtaining the possession of LAND...the Kaffir population should be made to furnish as large and cheap a supply of labour as possible.’

    AGRI TV: What is the accepted meaning of the word native?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: The accepted meaning of the word native is indigenous, genuine, legitimate, original, aboriginal owners of a country. The Australian Aboriginal and the Africans in this country, including the Khoisan people fall in this category. That is why a Khoi king asked invader Jan van Riebeeck a pertinent question. ‘You say we must move from our land because LAND is not enough for the cattle pastures of colonial settlers as well as ours. Who then with the greatest degree of justice should give way, the native owner or the foreign invader?’

    AGRI TV: As part of his opening remarks addressed to delegates to the recent Rural Economy Transformation Conference, the Minister of Land Reform And Rural Development said that the Native Land Act was ‘essentially an act of war’ but that the restitution cannot be undertaken in an equally warlike way ‘because the constitution forbids it.’ What do you think?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: The Native Land Act 1913 was a crime against humanity. It was genocide against the African people. It is a conundrum of conundrums that those who ‘negotiated’ so-called democracy allowed section 25(7) of the constitution which is the same thing as the Native Land Act 1913. This section of the constitution in a ‘New South Africa’ has consolidated land dispossession of the African people.

    The Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development is totally misguided and misleading when he says restitution cannot take place ‘because the constitution forbids it.’ Section 74 of this Eurocentric constitution itself, allows amendment by a two-thirds majority of Parliament voting. It is the ANC government which for reasons of its own has for many years vowed that it will not amend the constitution on the land question even if it had a two-thirds majority. This probably stems from the secret dark deals the ANC leaders cut with the apartheid colonialist regime in its 1993 ‘negotiations.’
    Constitutions however, are made to serve the majority interests of a country’s people not to make economic slaves out of them.

    AGRI TV: At the same Conference, the Deputy Minister said, ‘We need to study history to see where our country went wrong.’ What is your comment?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: The Deputy Minister was absolutely correct. One of the great scholars and brilliant political leader of this country, Dr Muziwakhe Lembede warned, ‘One who wants to create a future must not forget the past.’

    The land question will never be resolved in this country as long as its colonial history is swept under the carpet. The Union of South Africa was established on injustice, racism and genocide of the African people. It was meant to be an ‘Australia’ on the Continent of Africa. The Union of South Africa Act 1909 clearly stated in section 44 (c) ‘The qualifications of a Member of the House of Assembly shall be as follows: He... must be a British subject of European descent.’

    Through the Native Land Act 1913, the South African colonial parliament allocated 93 percent of this African country to 349,837 colonial settlers. This colonial allocation was as follows: Cape Colony 167,546, Natal 34,784, Orange River Colony 41,014 and Transvaal 106,493. Only 7 percent of the country which colonialists now called South Africa got allocated to five million colonised Africans. This 7% was called ‘Native Reserves.’ It was an extremely poor crowded concentration camp for cheap native labour for farms and mines now owned by the colonial settlers from Europe. Today Africans in South Africa are over forty million. They make 80 percent of the country’s population.

    The so-called Freedom Charter of the ANC betrayed the anti-colonial struggle of the African people in 1955 when its preamble deceitfully stated, ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white’ while the ownership of the African country was wholly in the hands of the European colonial minority through its military terrorism backed by British imperialism. Azania (South Africa) became a British colony as a result of the Berlin Treaty of 26 February 1885.

    The fundamental objective of the African liberation struggle in this country was for equitable redistribution of land and its resources, according to population numbers. The true 1912 ANC which was led by John Dube and Sol Plaatje made this demand very clear to King George V of Britain on 20th July 1914. This was a year after the Native Land Act 1913 was promulgated.

    The London Daily News of this time, reporting about this colonial law of extermination said, ‘White races have shown little regard for the claims of the black man. They have...in expropriating his land...taken away his economic freedom, and have left him in a worse case than they found him. How the native has been dispossessed may be illustrated by facts in regard to the Union of South Africa. Here blacks, as compared with whites, are in the proportion of Four to one; but they are in legal occupation of only one-fifteenth of the soil.’

    It is treacherous in the extreme that it is the 1955 ANC leaders who allowed a section of the colonial settlers to infiltrate the African liberation struggle. These settlers cheated them through the fraudulent ‘Freedom Charter’ (Freedom Cheater). They deceived also the world and the African people of this country that the Native Land Act 1913 did not matter since their ‘Freedom Charter’ in essence said that 13% of the land was enough for the African people. The infiltrated 1955 ANC endorsed this political fraud at the CODESA ‘negotiations’ hence section 25(7) of the ‘New South Africa’ constitution is the same thing as the Native Land Act 1913.

    The Native Land Act 1913 will be one hundred years old on 19th June 2013. Africans are still land dispossessed, criminally oppressed economically and socially degraded. This shows how the Azanian Revolution was corrupted, ruined and derailed by the captured 1955 ANC leaders. ‘New South Africa’ or the so-called ‘Rainbow Nation’ is today a country of ‘two nations.’ One is extremely rich and white settler minority which lives a ‘first world economy.’ The other is extremely poor and African indigenous majority which lives a ‘third world economy.’

    AGRI TV: Am I right in thinking that if there had been no Native Land Act the apartheid legislation might have been difficult to introduce?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: I think you are right. Before the colonial settlers enacted the Native Land Act 1913, Africans had access to fertile land. They were prosperous farmers. They could mine minerals in any part of their country. They worked for themselves. They had economic power. Their life span was not the shortest. Their child mortality was not the highest as the case is today. The British colonial government had to import Indians to come and work on their sugarcane farms. They had to tax Africans in order to force them to come and work in the mines after the discovery of gold and diamonds.

    When this failed, their colonial remedy was to allocate five million Africans 7% of their own land. Africans then began to be victims of massive poverty, ignorance and diseases such as TB. They lost economic control of their country. The Native Land Act reduced Africans to a nation of servants and workers for foreigners. Today many Africans do not have even a piece of land to build themselves decent homes, let alone to do some farming or mine some minerals such as gold, platinum and diamonds for themselves. They have no money to educate their children. They are third class citizens in the country of their ancestors.

    AGRI TV: The theme behind the DRDLR’s what does the latter acronym stand for campaign is ‘Reverse the Legacy’ of the 1913 Native Land Act? Is it possible to reverse the so-called Legacy of the Native Land Act 1913?

    MOTSOKO PHEKO: Why was it not reversed in the first place in CODESA ‘negotiations’ and in the 1996 Constitution? Can this country afford not to reverse this glaring colonial and economic injustice? This so-called legacy is genocide. It has created massive poverty among the African people. The consequences of not reversing the Native Land Act 1913 are deadly.
    Poverty is the mother of revolutions. The Marikana Massacre of 16 August 2012 under the ANC government is a wakeup call for this country, to get its act together. There must be equitable redistribution of land and its resources in Azania (South Africa). This must be according to population numbers.

    The Native Land Act 1913 in South Africa is the colonial sister of the Balfour Declaration of 2nd November 1917 through which the British colonial government dispossessed 92 percent of the Palestinian people of their land.

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    * Dr. Motsoko Pheko is a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several books among which is SOUTH AFRICA: BETRAYAL OF A COLONISED PEOPLE. During the anti-colonial apartheid struggle, he was a Representative of the victims of apartheid at the United Nations in New York, as well as at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He was a Member of Parliament in Cape Town for ten years.


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