Forced to wait, South Africans have become angry

2018-09-23 09:54
the next step George Kuvaphavira on his 10 hectare farm in De Deur, Gauteng.Land must be given over peacefully and immediately, writes the authorPHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

the next step George Kuvaphavira on his 10 hectare farm in De Deur, Gauteng.Land must be given over peacefully and immediately, writes the authorPHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

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I do not want to die. I do not want any of us to die. It is as simple as that.

I had the pleasure of listening to a public speaking competition at a high school in North West recently. I was truly impressed by the pupils’ eloquence and confidence. I was also frightened. These children were angry. My fellow born-frees were angry.

I cannot blame them for this anger. I feel partly responsible. They are angry for one of the most understandable reasons in existence – they are angry because their land was taken from them.

My great-great-grandfather came to South Africa as a diamond dealer and a land owner. Yes, one of those. My parents and grandparents received university educations. They all had white-collar jobs. And I mean that literally – to have those jobs, you had to be white. They worked in IT, architecture, surgical nursing and public relations. Let’s just say Hendrik Verwoerd cut us a good deal. Look at where I am now. I am private-school educated and I am on track to be a third-generation university student. Tell me white privilege is not real.

The point I am getting at is that we, being “white” people, benefited greatly from a system. This was a system that was so repugnant, so repulsive, that I do not think you can call yourself human if you support it.

One of the many legacies of this system is the reason I’m writing this piece. Today, I am going to talk about land reform. I realise that this is a very contentious issue.

Apart from a few exceptions, most South Africans will agree that the land was stolen and that it must be given back. So, if I try to convince these people of that, I would just be preaching to the converted. Therefore, I am going to appeal to the minority of readers: those who are against land redistribution.

Earlier, I said that there is one thing I care about: I do not want to die. On a bigger scale, I do not want us to die. And, right now, by not supporting land reform, we are playing a game of Russian roulette. Except in this game, all six chambers of the gun are loaded and we are trigger-happy. South Africans, if we do not give back the land, that gun will go off. You think gunpowder makes a big explosion? Just wait and see what it looks like when a country explodes.

Our country is angry. Not because of what any born-free did, but because of what our ancestors did. And they did evil things: the 1913 Natives Land Act, Cecil John Rhodes instigating the Boer War, the endless abuse of mine workers, the hut tax, the Xhosa Wars, the British sucking a casus belli out of their thumbs to go to war against the Zulus, the Rivonia Trial, the murders of Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol and thousands of other patriots.

The biggest of all was the first one I mentioned – the Natives Land Act, and all subsequent legislation. There is an old struggle song that says it better than I ever could. It is called Thina Sizwe. A partial translation for that song is: “We the black nation/ Are weeping for our land.”

And how quickly tears can turn to fire. We are in danger, South Africa. We have two options – either we all come together to pursue land redistribution, or millions of South Africans will rise up to claim what is theirs.

I do not speak simply of transferring from minority ownership to majority ownership. The issue is more complicated than that. What is made of the huge swathes of land that are in government hands? How does this apply to urban areas? Who is entitled to land? What happens to those whose land has been expropriated?

These are questions that we must ask ourselves. If we do not, South Africa will most likely become a failed state. However, we must ask these questions now – before it is too late. South Africa is an angry place. She is running out of patience for asking questions. The most dangerous thing we can do is leave this process for later. It is too dangerous to wait. Our people have waited long enough; they will wait no longer. That is not meant to sound pretty. It is a downright warning.

When a country is forced to wait, it becomes irritated. Irritation leads to anger. Anger leads to violence. Violence leads to destruction on both sides. We must ask those essential questions, now. We need to sort out what land redistribution means, now.

I am shocked when I still hear people say that “we’ll end up like Zimbabwe”.

Yes, we will – if we do not let land reform happen now! If we wait, if we let the pressure build, if we let the anger simmer, we will plunge our nation into civil war. You already have extremist doomsday preppers stocking up on food for this occurrence. But it can be stopped. Land redistribution is going to happen, that is out of anyone’s control. However, what our country can control is how this happens.

We can either give the land over peacefully, or we can plunge our country into the unending fire. We can choose action now that will save us, or we can take the tantalising road of patience. This road of patience is paved with good intentions.

“Our economy can’t take it now,” they say.

“Investors will leave,” they say.

“Food security, unemployment, corruption …”

But let us not forget that the road to hell is also paved with good intentions.

And, hey, those arguments make sense. We need to worry about the economy and we need to worry about food security. And it is because of these concerns that we need land reform now! We need a peaceful, controlled redistribution of land. We need farmers, workers and dispossessed people at the negotiating table. Like in 1994, we need to peacefully discuss who gets the land.

In terms of the economy, you cannot have true growth when the means of production is centralised in the hands of a few. And I do not mean “white” people, it is a group smaller than that – it is a few thousand farmers who basically own our country. That is not capitalism, that is feudalism. And, worse, if we take the road of inaction, we will see what it is like for the economy to burn.

You will see what it is like to lose your food security when South Africans take back what is rightfully theirs. You will see how bad disinvestment can be when all of those channels are burnt in the fires of civil war. My fellow South Africans, this civil war is coming. But, as happened in 1994, we can stop it. We can stop it by negotiating and we can stop it by giving back the land now.

Already, the issue is being hijacked by populists. They do not care about the people of South Africa – they are not giving us a plan because they have no plan. They just want votes. We need to fix this before they get the chance to. We need to save our country while we still can.

Reading this are the brightest minds in the country. No, the world.

Humanity cannot afford to lose you to the jaws of war. We cannot afford to let this experiment die. We cannot, like fools, put out our small candle of freedom. We are a new, yet bright, beacon of democracy in a world that is increasingly turning its back on the people. We are a nation that has overcome struggles that would have sunk most others. We did this because of our unique South African spirit. We cannot let that spirit die.

The world needs us. Humanity needs us. History is calling on you, dear South African. Please, answer the call. Let us end this before it ends us.

- Field is a matric student from Pretoria. He was selected as one of News24’s 100 young Mandelas, and he has represented SA at the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships. He is a passionate South African with a deep love for his country

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