The history of land dispossession

2018-03-15 06:00
OPINIONNkutsoe Motsau

OPINIONNkutsoe Motsau

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When the European first made his foray into Africa, the one commonality between them and the indigenous inhabitants was that both were ruled by kingdoms.

In Europe, the Kings, vast tracts of land were under the control of nobility, the clergy and various landlords, while the peasants owned only minimum or insignificant lands, forcing them to work for a living. Meanwhile, the Africans had a ritualistic, mysterious or spiritualistic relationship with the land.

How the Europeans related with land differed diametrically with how the Africans related with land. In Europe, they had feudal relations, in Africa we had communalist relations. The Europeans came to Africa looking for land and its riches. As it was, a group of Europeans found themselves discussing the purchase of land with the Africans.

The Africans do not understand this. First, they don’t understand the concept of selling property, secondly, they don’t understand how land could be sold. And then they bring on the table the concept of bartering or exchanging land for goods.

Still, how is land sold? And so the Africans left and came back with loads of soil which they poured in front of the Europeans. The Europeans said they did not want the soil, but the land. That, the Africans could not understand. The Africans did not own land individually. They owned the land collectively and it was held in trust for them by the King.

It did not belong to the king. To the Africans, the land—the grasses that grew on it, the forests, the wild beasts, the valleys and mountains and the minerals under the soil—was indivisible and belonged to them; it belonged to their forefathers and to their children and to their children’s children. Their ancestors were buried here, in the land, their parents were born here, they and their parents would be buried here.

It was allocated to those who came to stay here and those who had just gotten married. They took great care of their flora and fauna. They were conservationists of note.

The only way the Europeans could get this land was by way of conquest, or by use of force, or by destroying the way of life of the Africans so that they should work for them. The church of England declared that slaves had no souls. The slave trade flourished, and as a result, more than 3 million Africans were carted away.

As if that was nothing and as if to give Africa something to really cry for, now the Europeans sit around a table and carve Africa up, dividing it up amongst themselves—this is for you Germany, this is for you Portugal, this is for you France and this is for you Great Britain!

In South Africa today, 67% of agricultural land belongs to white commercial farmers. The Africans own no more than 6% of agricultural land. Of the so-called 15% of the land that is owned by the Blacks, most of it is state owned. Look at the slums around the urban areas. The black people own only about 10% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. More than 50% of the black people live in abject poverty. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. That my friend, is excruciating land expropriation without compensation!

  • Motsau is the chairperson of Azanla MVA

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