Thursday, March 29, 2018

The silent now speak

As you probably know, Jacob Zuma was president of South Africa until recently.  His corruption, arrogance, and lies eventually got more than his political party could tolerate.  The African National Congress (ANC) recalled him, and a new president installed.  Cyril Ramaphosa has brought an optimism in the country not seen for many years.  He is smart, affluent, and hopefully, sensible.  So far, the indications are good and the country is experiencing what is called Rhamaphoria.

Cyril Ramaphosa - President of South Africa

 At the same time, many Whites are in an uproar about a debate taking place within the ANC to expropriate land without compensation - a policy that Ramaphosa endorses, as long as it doesn't disrupt the food supply.  If this were to happen, it would necessitate a change in the constitution, which now stipulates that owners have to be compensated at fair market value.  I think this change is likely to happen.

Many Whites think this is the first step of South Africa becoming like Zimbabwe.

I have become despondent about the reaction to this proposed change in policy.  Facebook and other fora are filled with comments from Whites deploring the possibility.  Many Whites are thinking of emigrating.

Two things are causing my despondency.  First, there is no doubt in my mind, without a more equitable distribution of land ownership, there will be increasing unrest.  At the same time, it is understandable that Whites fear they may lose everything.  What is missing, is a willingness of many Whites to acknowledge the unfairness of the current situation and to be willing to help craft a transition. 

Jonathan Jansen, an astute commentator of the South African situation, had this to say to White South Africans in a recent article in Times Select:

It would really help if you acknowledged the past. From before the Native Land Act of 1913 to the Group Areas Act of 1950 blacks lost their land on a massive scale in favour of whites. We are not even talking about the systematic conquest of native peoples under waves of Dutch and English colonialism. In other words, the fact that whites as a demographic minority own so much of land and impressive housing across the nine provinces, and most blacks live in poverty and ramshackle housing, is not an accident. It is a consequence of a past that favoured whites over blacks. If this simple fact about dispossession eludes you, then stop reading this article; no amount of education will help you. 
Therefore, in the heat of the land reform debate, do not make silly arguments like “my parents worked hard for their land” (everybody does, if they have land) or “I was not there personally” (you benefitted and are better off as a result) or “we bought the land lawfully” (because others could not, given those same laws then). A good dose of humility would help you and advance the debate. It would also enable you to listen to the other side and to respond in a responsible way.

The second cause of my despondency is hypocrisy of so many of the people who are outraged by the land proposals.  If the people who are so vocal now had not been silent when the apartheid government took land from Blacks without compensation, the country may have been in a different place today.  In addition, it is sad to see how many of the comments are tinged with both with racism and a lack of acknowledgement of how much better off the country is now – free press, independent judiciary, millions of new homes for people who previously lived in corrugated iron shacks.

I, by no means, believe everything is rosy – there are huge problems, including the aftermath of rampant corruption under Zuma, unemployment (probably around 35% or so), a poor education system, and so on.  But there is none as big as the land issue.

It has to get resolved.  And it will.

But, as Jansen says, if the Whites don’t listen to the other side of the issue, and if they are not willing to accept that the current situation is both inequitable and unsustainable, they will not like the resolution.


  1. Curiously, this issue, which is creating so much angst here, doesn't seem to bother foreign investors. The South African Rand is the strongest it's been against other currencies that it's been for many years.

  2. I understand the reasons for your despondency, Stan, as well as Michael’s perplection at how market forces seem oblivious to the critical times ahead. Seems like despondent and perplexed are the watch words for much of our planet today.

  3. Stan, though this is none of my business, I am intimately familiar with the land grab called Colonialism in other parts of Africa. If some of the whites are so insensitive to how whites acquired their land in the first place, might it not be better for all concerned if they emigrated?