THESE wild and vast valleys have never known peace. If they could talk, they would tell us about the floods of blood that once flowed here, and the screams of innocent Xhosa women and children who died at the hands of the 1820 settlers.
I’ve come to learn that, unlike time, history is expedient. Time is impartial, ticktocking its way through the ages without regard for who is telling the story.
History is different. It is always on the side of those who write it. Butchers become heroes and the pain of the vanquished is erased.
My daughter and I were sitting in a 185-year-old fort – now converted into a restaurant – where the 1820 settlers kept their stolen livestock.
When Africans came to claim what was theirs, they were shot through the holes in the walls and killed.
The following day, the cycle of dispossession would start all over again – the white settlers would raid the villages, wreaking havoc along the way.
The portions on our plates were big, surpassed only by the love and caring that the cook and the manager who doubled up as the waitress showed us, but once we knew where we were, it felt like we were eating the flesh of our ancestors.
This must be the Auschwitz of South Africa.
The settlers kept on coming. They were given farms for free as the locals were forced off their land.
Their descendants still own the land, or the profits if it was sold.
In the surrounding townships, the descendants of those who were dispossessed are condemned to poverty, or they work as farm hands, gardeners or maids.
If they want the land of their forefathers back, it must be on a willing seller, willing buyer basis.
What happened in this little town in the Eastern Cape is a microcosm of the dispossession of generations that happened in the rest of the country.
The willing seller, willing buyer system was first tried in 1979 as part of the Lancaster House Agreement, which gave independence to what was then called Rhodesia.
We know how that ended.
Africans are the only people in the world who, when dispossessed, are expected to pay to get back what is rightfully theirs.
The younger Africans who were born at a time of promissory peace and dignity are becoming despondent but, unlike the older generations, they are willing to fight harder.
As a result, racial tension is on the rise in businesses as black staff feel marginalised, and white employees feel that blacks are unfair beneficiaries of employment equity.
In this column, a few months before the xenophobic violence began this year, I warned South African leaders about the sustained and reckless statements that would lead to attacks on foreigners.
Again, I am warning that white business in South Africa, because of resistance to change, is fertilising the ground for the rise of a black Adolf Hitler.
Local business is no longer investing in South Africa, preferring to invest its money outside of our borders, citing BEE codes as the reason.
The situation is exacerbated by our ultraxenophobic home affairs department, which is making it harder for families to travel.
Buildings and machinery in foreign countries don’t make investments here – business comes from entrepreneurs who travel here on holiday and see opportunities.
The subsequent drop in tourism because of onerous travel regulations will invariably be followed by a further drop in investment.
Internally, punitive bureaucracy is stifling small business growth, which is the fountain for new jobs. We are in a perfect storm.
When the black Hitler arrives, God forbid, he or she will not only burn white businesses, but the whole country.
There is still time to divert the storm. This is our country, and we must love it – not in word alone, but in deed. We have a legacy that is not of our own doing, but one that we must fix nevertheless.
* Muzi Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency.