Just this week, Malema stated that white people should return land to its rightful owners, adding that he would not slaughter them, stirring racial tensions in a country desperately trying to move on.
Firstly, Malema never stated which whites owe land to whom. Do white farmers in the Western Cape owe land to the Khoisan? Do white farmers in the Eastern Cape owe land to the Xhosas? Is this merely a collective handover of white land to blacks, regardless of location or historical significance? That seems to defeat the whole purpose of his argument.
The fact is, much of the land that white farmers now own, had been bought from tribal chiefs way back when. Other sections of land had been captured and recaptured from tribe to tribe for centuries. Let’s not forget that the Zulu and Matabele tribes were migrating south from the northern interior of Africa. Who owned what land when is too complex of an issue to be decided by ‘whites give land to blacks.’ What happens when the whites have no more land to give and not all blacks own a piece of land? Will age-old tribal feuds again see the light of day?
Even if we could establish that whites universally stole the land from the blacks, would merely taking it back be the right thing to do? He doesn’t have a foot to stand on from a legal point of view. Simply retaking land is theft, which is illegal. It is also theft based on race, which could be seen as a hate crime, and thus be deemed unconstitutional. Not only that, but we already have systems in place, namely the Land restitution Act, in which persons can appeal to regain land they lost because of legislation from 1910 onwards. This system is a much better system than the one which Malema proposes. The fact that it hasn’t managed to achieve its goals just shows that the current government is too corrupt and inept to even achieve its ideological goals.
Malema should also look to our northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, to learn what happens to countries that implement the policies that he wants to. He literally has a case study at his fingertips. He doesn’t need the benefit of hindsight. Can he not learn out of Zimbabwe’s mistake? Agriculture played a major part in their economic stability, as it does in South Africa. Mugabe forcibly retook land owned by white farmers. Zimbabwe’s economy tanked and food insecurity followed to such an extent that he has recently requested white farmers to return to Zimbabwe and start farming again. Without food, people cannot eat, and it will always be in demand. It is better to be a net exporter of agricultural goods than a net importer.
There is another system in place to ensure that land in South Africa has a higher percentage of black ownership. This is the Land Reform Act, which aims to break up bigger commercial farms into smaller farms. What this in effect means is that big, profitable commercial farms are turned into smaller sustenance farms, benefitting no-one but the owners of that piece of land. Recently, the Western Cape celebrated a 62% percent success rate, the highest in the country.
Systems are in place. We cannot afford to rush this. Malema, your ideological goals will have to take a back seat to pragmatism.