The Mail & Guardian published a letter from Andile Mngxitama of the EFF, that criticised Richard Branson. It was entitled 'You’re Buying Stolen Land, Mr Branson' and you should read that article for context.
Richard Branson's 'response' has being doing the internet rounds though it's unlikely penned by him because i cannot find the source. However, even if it's a hoax, it's absolutely hilarious and clever... and totally upstages Andile whose radicalism shouldn't make anyone forget that he's a smart guy too.
You are going to enjoy this:
Dear Honorable (Commissar) Andile Mngxitama
Thank you for your letter warning me about expropriation without compensation of my Mont Rochelle Hotel and Mountain Vineyards owned by Virgin Limited Edition (VLI) in Franschoek. That is if the EFF come to power.
I do want to firstly assure you that we are used to expropriation without compensation. It is commonplace in the hotel business and I can’t tell you how many sheets and towels and pictures cutlery and plants go missing from our establishments.
One hotel owner lost a whole chandelier when a guest dismantled and smuggled it out in his brief case; in batches. Our only crime-free establishment is on my island Nakar, where the guests probably think they might be searched on departure.
May I also hasten to add that we do not own that surreally beautiful forty hectares of land in Franschoek. At least not in the same way that we own the business, cars, equipment, vines and buildings. But I give you my word that all these movables are ours and will be disposed of before the expropriation date, using explosives if needs be.
As for the very precious and beautiful land, the Registrar of Deeds, a state employee, has acknowledged our ownership by signing the title deed and survey diagram. This ‘piece of paper’ as you call it, is vital. We cannot have people trespassing on our property, or sending their cows into the vineyards. So we paid for its exclusive use. The tacit agreement is the state will prevent others from using it and our taxes pay for this protection.
I might add that when the colonial forces subjugated your ancestors I believe there was much debate in Whitehall about introducing land titles into the former Homelands. Suffice to say that if they had done so then, as the Fingoes requested in 1835, people would not now still be fleeing from land held in communal ownership and arbitrary rule by chieftans.
In testament to this we can only guess how thoroughly rotten things are out there, sans titles, when people freely choose to move to the dangerous and degrading rusty corrugated suburbs around the towns and cities. There they have to buy food and are humiliated by depending on state grants which would not feed an alsation. “Oh to be a slave,” they must be thinking, contrary to your suggestion.
However untitled land was what the Cape settlers had to cope with in the 1820s. So Governor Craddock, acting on Queen Victoria’s behalf, marked out private farms and plots and issued title deeds. In those days colonialists were granted perpetual quitrent tenures which Queen Victoria was bound to honour, for ever, provided the owners paid the rent.
To describe this as stealing from the Khoi and the San is about as ridiculous as Queen Elizabeth 11 accusing Azanians for pinching the English language, taking on Westminster’s democratic norms, and and playing cricket, football and rugby. The point is that the land is still there. So how can it have been stolen.
Yes, VLE has a title deed, and yes settlers took possession by force just as the Normans took England in 1066, and the Zulus took parts of the Transkei and like property has been engrossed everywhere since BC. But in my book we do not own the Franschoek land but merely have a right to its use. A usufruct as Baroness Thatcher called it. That might be because my God, as you call Him, made this beautiful land but His name does not appear on the title deed.
And land is priceless; for in this unfathomable universe all the money in the world cannot add an inch or an ounce to our earth. And, I blush, VLE paid just fifteen years of rent for the farm (the going multiple), when it will last till the end of time, probably a billion years.
That is a bargain in any language. You call it theft, but we have not deprived anyone else. Frost and Sullivan estimates there are 27 million hectares of unused arable land in South Africa and countless millions of urban plots which could be subdivided, so there is enough to go around.
But income taxes and vat are proper, armed robbery. And when the EFF comes to power you will be fleecing everyone for working, innovating, saving, investing and spending in South Africa. Just like the ANC today.
So let us do a deal and get all this land access and theft business out of the way in the event that you win the next election:
1. Without admitting any guilt I am willing to recommend to my board that VLI pay back the current value of our land to the National Treasury over a fifteen year period with an option to continue paying for its use thereafter.
2. The conditions precedent are that all other landowners, whether black or white, are put to the same terms. Secondly National Treasury waives all income taxes and vat, starting from the February following the date that EFF comes to power.
You will find the land payments will likely exceed the present taxes because unused land, pays next to nothing now. This will mean that the price of unused land will drop sharply and will therefore cost next to nothing to expropriate. Or it will have to be put to use quickly to make the payments.
Kindly reply within the month because we have started renovations to the hotel. That may have to be stopped if your threat is not withdrawn.
Sir Richard Branson
PS: Be much appreciated if anyone can supply me the source of this letter.
Update: Sophie Lilley, the PR Manager for Virgin Limited Edition (London) contacted me with this letter from Jon Brown, her Managing Director:
"I write in response to your recent article dated 25th June 2014 ‘Is Richard Branson Totally One-Upping the EFF?’ Please be aware that Virgin Limited Edition are the owners of Mont Rochelle Hotel & Vineyard and we feel it is necessary to respond to your article in order to remove any reference that suggests Sir Richard Branson has responded directly to claims from Andile Mngxitama of the EFF.
As you are aware, The Mail & Guardian published a letter from Andile Mngxitama of the EFF, which was entitled ‘You’re Buying Stolen Land, Mr Branson’. Virgin Limited Edition is unaware of any legitimate land claim regarding Mont Rochelle Hotel & Mountain Vineyard however we would be prepared to fully co-operate with the Land Claims Commission within the legal framework which exists in South Africa.
The response you have featured in your article was not written by Sir Richard Branson nor can it be attributed to Virgin Limited Edition."
[wow, how quick was Virgin - i have to give them a bow - thanks Sophie]