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Chris Taylor
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Turning point in land debate

09 July 2018, 10:49

We have reached a turning point in an interesting debate about land. Now the government says that black-owned land will not be subject to expropriation. Does that include all land owned by our black government, or by black-owned businesses?

Significantly, that means that the land captured by the Zulus during the Mfecane will stay theirs. Too bad for the Hlubi and the Shangaans and the many other tribes who saw their land gobbled up by more warlike tribes in this greatest of black upheavals. I imagine they were hoping for redress, but this is racial vengeance, not justice.

One of the better aspects of redistribution of traditional lands was that it would give land title to the occupiers, those who live on the land and those who work it, and typically they are one and the same (and ironically a major target of the ANC's Freedom Charter).

There is no security of tenure now. Upset the local induna, fail to pay him his taxes, and you will find the land you farm allocated to someone else, and if you do get a strip to plant it may be rocky and far from water. 

When the land is yours by title, it is yours. The law of the land will defend that right. You can invest in it - fence it, build a wall around it, sink a borehole, erect a windmill, fertilise it, plant trees, make it more productive and more valuable. All that is pointless when the land can be taken away at the whim of the induna.

And so when title is given, the land becomes better cared for and more productive. It stays farmland, it is not given over to housing or the induna's new wife.

The English discovered centuries ago that communal land was problematic, and they began a series of Enclosure Acts which privatized most of the communal land. That allowed successful farmers the space to develop better breeds of livestock and better methods of farming crops, which in turn led to higher productivity, greater wealth and more food security. 

The fear of King Zwelithini though is well-founded - land redistribution will savagely diminish his power over the peasants. Where now do the ANC's founding principles go? Better keep the big men happy by the looks of it. Sorry peasants, you don't count. Again.

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