Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Death: Time to Rediscover our Common History

The death of apartheid stalwart, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, laid bare the South African psyche and how much still must be done to heal the wounds of our troubled past. Troubled as it is, our past however presents at the same time, in my view, the ideal vehicle to build social cohesion that our society so clearly lacks.

https://www.news24.com/Columnists/Ralph_Mathekga/winnies-funeral-a-missed-opportunity-20180416 

Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and in the above article Winnie’s funeral a missed opportunity he writes as follows:

“If there is any subject that brings out the differences in people, it has to be history.

Most conflicts in society are not about how to shape the future, but how to read the past and apportion responsibility. Religious conflicts that divide societies and have resulted in sustained conflicts such as the one we see in the Middle East are based on a historical account of the past. In this instance, religious convictions are largely a historical account of how our ancestors adopted religion and spirituality in their struggle for self-determination and survival in a hostile world characterised by good and evil.

Modern religious convictions are often a choice regarding which historical account of past events you believe, and the corresponding beliefs closely reflect one’s historical ancestry.

History is a window through which to look into the future. A nation that has a sense of a shared history, tend to develop a sense of common destiny. South Africans have conflicting versions of history. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s death has laid bare the fact that we do not agree on a common version of history for this country. In fact, the history of South Africa relating to the apartheid years and the struggle against the regime remains the most contested history and source of major differences in the country. 

Instead of using Mama Winnie’s passing as a moment to forge a common reflection on the glorious history of this country, including the courageous anti-apartheid struggle, South Africans resorted to desecrating that history by casting aspersions on the struggle role played by the giants such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.”

His words rings so true and that goes for White people’s understanding of the history and struggle of Black people but also just as much for Black people’s understanding of the history and struggle of White people.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lets-stray-back-our-historic-laagers-solly-moeng/?published=t

In response to the above article Let’s not stray back in our historical laagers, I wrote as follows recently on Facebook when the author, Solly Moeng, asked for input on the question “How do we recover ourselves as a united, diverse nation, hold hands again and build together for a better shared future?”:

“…………The second aspect that will in my view make a tremendous difference is not to vilify the history of especially the Afrikaner as if it was all just bad as opposed to the all righteous struggle waged by mainly Black people. Fact is our troubled history is not always as clear cut as black vs white or good vs bad. It’s much more nuanced than that and it takes careful consideration to arrive at a fair, balanced and objective view.

The Afrikaner history for example is full of bad and evil, which we all know of and which will be to our eternal shame, but it’s just as much filled with struggle and patriotism. Struggle in overcoming prejudice by the British who saw Afrikaans speaking people as lesser human beings in the 1800’s, struggle in overcoming poverty when in the 1930’s one in three Afrikaner households were living in abject poverty, struggle in overcoming the trauma of losing thousands of men, women and children during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War in the cruelest circumstance etc. Patriotism in fighting for and securing South Africa’s independence in 1961 from British colonial rule, patriotism in realising the error of our ways and breaking from South Africa’s past of segregation by having the courage to vote overwhelmingly yes in the 1992 referendum for change etc.

Fact is we have a common history rather than an White/Afrikaans or Black/Zulu/Xhosa history and if we celebrate it together, and in the right way, it has the potential to unite us as a country, troubled as it may be. Just a small example to illustrate this – when I worked at one of the big 5 auditing firms, I had a consultant working with me Zwile Zulu, who comes from a Zulu Royal background. We one day discussed our common history and realized that in February 1838 his forefathers killed one of my 8th distant cousins, Stephanus Johannes van Vuuren, together with Piet Retief and all his other men. I indicated that five of my forefathers exacted revenge on Dingane in December 1838 for this at the battle of Bloedriver and probably in doing so killed some of his forefathers. Rather than indulging in a debate about who was right or who was wrong back in 1838, we rejoiced the fact that somewhere back in our history our forefather’s tracks did cross, bonding the two of us inexplicably and irretrievably together, Black and White. Does the same not apply to all who are citizens of this country?”

I must admit that I had mix feelings about the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. I worked in the townships of the then Witwatersrand and also the Munsieville township in the 1980’s where on 13 April 1986 (ironically a day before the date she would be buried exactly 32 years later) she said her by now infamous words “… Together hand-in-hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country….”. A few days after her speech a township resident, Doctor Nakale Kgogome, suspected to be a police informer was dragged into an open area in Munsieville where he was set alight with a gasoline filled tyre around his neck. He died of his horrific injuries in hospital and this tragic event left an indelible mark on my consciousness.

Given the aforementioned, it was difficult for me personally to deal with the fawning adulation bestowed on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela following her death. At the same many so-called expose’s, documentaries and interviews came to the fore that added nothing new that was not already in the public domain, but which many and especially those in the EFF fold grabbed onto with their life, to erroneously show that Winnie’s has been misrepresented and that their was a conspiracy to defraud her legacy or even worse that she has been sold out by her comrades. This was a crude attempt at revisionist rewriting of history that went as far as to taint the role played by people such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as highlighted by  Ralph Mathekga above, and even the reputation of of three respected journalists, Thandeka Gqubule, Anton Harber and Nomavenda Mathiane was called into question (in a rather weak apology the Huffington Post astonishingly said that “they felt the public would understand” and that it was “not making a literal accusation”).

In the end I however had to temper my own personal feelings about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, by appreciating her role in the wider struggle to rid South Africa from Apartheid and what she meant, wrongly or rightly depending on each person’s own perspective, for so many South African’s. I took a lot of personal convincing for me to do so but in the end, just as in the example of me and Zwile Zulu mentioned above, I came to the realization that somewhere in my past, my path and that of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela crossed, and that this bonded the two of us inexplicably and irretrievably together as South Africans with a common history.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2018-04-13-has-truth-become-a-casualty-of-winnies-rejection-of-accountability/ 

As Palesa Morudu, a publisher and writer based in Cape Town wrote in the above article  Has truth become a casualty of Winnie’s rejection of accountability?, I in the end also added my voice to those that prayed “May she rest in peace” and “Let us celebrate the glory of her legacy” but who also said lets at the same time “condemn its horrors”.

As Ralph Mathekga noted above a nation that has a sense of a shared history, tend to develop a sense of a common destiny. My wish is therefore for all South African’s to reconsider our common history, troubled as it may be, and what this history tells us it means to be a South African. That we all at the same time acknowledge the past hurt that we caused one another but also recognize that, at various points in our past people, of all races and backgrounds suffered. That we in doing so take off our lenses of prejudice and hatred, and attempts to score points by selectively quoting history, and that we look one another squarely in the eyes, saying that its our common history that binds us all together,  inexplicably and irretrievably, Black and White.

Postscript 1: I’m busy reading a fascinating book by Harry Booyens “AmaBhulu – The Birth and Death of the Second America”. In it he documents the birth of the Afrikaner nation, its struggles to find a home it can call its own in Africa just to be robbed of it every time by the British imperialists and the many interactions my forefathers had with the various African tribes. The book brings vividly to life the fact that many times in our troubled past the Afrikaner and the African tribes worked together for the common good and in many instances exchanged land for goods or assistance rendered which goes against the prevailing narrative the Whites always stole the land. I will therefore in a few posts to follow focus on these aspects namely the cooperation between Afrikaner and Black people throughout our history, the history of land occupation in Southern Africa and also highlight the extent to which the Afrikaner suffered under British imperialism and domination.

Postscript 2: I quoted above the second aspect that I thought would assist to recover ourselves as a united, diverse nation,  and to hold hands again and build together for a better shared future. The first aspect that I thought would make a big difference are the following as I worded it in my Facebook post:

“The first thing that will in my view make a tremendous contribution is to accept all South Africans as rightful citizens of our beautiful country and for our government to be unequivocal about it in all their messaging. For as long as the word settler or colonialist is being branded around, it will make a lot of people, including me, feel that we are not welcome in the country of our birth and make us to doubt the sincerity of our fellow South African’s. These utterances creates unnecessary breathing space for racists to come to the fore and spew hate.”

 

Rian Malan and the prevailing narrative of White people dispossessing Black people and committing genocide

In this day and age, history as we know it are continually being questioned and revisited, which I don’t have a problem with, so as long as its backed by new historical evidence and not just to simply support a new prevailing political narrative. I think that in the debate about expropriation without compensation we all should also guard against a one-sided historical view of dispossession of land and any violence that accompanied it, especially if it says that it was only group A who did it to group B without critically questioning it.

I wrote about the same aspect in my recent critique of Parliaments motion on expropriation without compensation which can be read here:

https://twosidestoeverything.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/parliaments-motion-on-land-expropriation-with-compensation-a-critique-highlighting-some-historical-fallacies-inaccuracies-dubious-facts-based-on-political-expediency-and-posing-some-pertinent/

It might be an uncomfortable truth, but fact is that not only Black people were the victims of land dispossession in our recent past, White people also suffered dispossession.  Also, the perpetrators of dispossession were not exclusively White people, but Black people also dispossessed their fellow Blacks.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2018-03-09-land-restitution-demands-driven-by-the-pain-of-the-colonial-wound/

The above article Land-restitution demands driven by the pain of the ‘colonial wound’ highlights but one of the instances in which the White community, in this instance the Afrikaner, was disposed in a violent way from their farms –

“A version of this model was used to instigate a much more calamitous event, the Anglo-Boer War. It ended in by far the largest and most intense land grab in SA’s history (my emphasis), through martial law.

“Rebel” Boer farms were seized, and their inhabitants sent to the century’s first concentration camps, where 40,000 people of all races died. In an orgy of slaughter as part of a scorched-earth campaign decried in the British parliament as using the “methods of barbarism”, livestock and improvements were destroyed.”

Another example is the Boer Republic of Natalia with its capital Pietermaritzburg. The area was ceded by the Zulu king Dingane to Piet Retief and his followers in 1838 but the British simply annexed the territory in 1843, dispossessing the Boer citizens, to establish the Colony of Natal.

NOTE – although Dingane and three witnesses on both sides signed the document, there is some contestation if Dingane fully understood what he did by signing the treaty with the Voortrekkers before he killed Retief’s whole party, but fact remains he signed a document giving ownership of some land to the Voortrekkers. Others questions the authenticity of the treaty, but as set out in the following article The Retief Massacre of 6 February 1838 revisited there is strong evidence that on 4 February 1838 both Dingane and Retief signed a written deed of land transfer.

http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/hist/v56n2/v56n2a07.pdf

Such land treaties between Black and White in our history are not uncommon and in the article Wit mense het grond wettig bekom a number of other examples are cited:

https://maroelamedia.co.za/debat/meningsvormers/wit-mense-het-grond-wel-wettig-bekom/ 

“One of the examples of how the Voortrekkers acquired land with legal agreements is the agreement entered into with the Swazi king in 1846. The area between the Olifants and Crocodile Rivers was given to the Trekkers in exchange for cattle. In 1855 a similar agreement was entered into for the Lydenburg district. In the same year, the Swazi king also donated the area along the Pongola River to be added to the Voortrekkers new republic. The Swazi king’s goal was to create a buffer zone against attacks by the Zulu. There are also other examples of similarities, which refute the myth that the Voortrekkers have simply stolen ground on a large scale (freely translated from Afrikaans).”

During Apartheid many White farmers were dispossessed of their property by the National Party government in their attempt to consolidate the territories of the former homelands.

Coming to Black people dispossessing Black people the best and well-known example is the Mfecane (isiZulu) also known by the Sesotho name Difaqane or Lifaqane (all meaning “crushing, scattering, forced dispersal, forced migration”. This was a period of widespread chaos and warfare among indigenous Black communities in Southern Africa during the period between 1815 and about 1840 that did not just displace many communities and dispossessed them from their ancestral land, but led to the deaths of hundred of thousands of people

NOTE – Some historians questioned, not that the Mfecane happened, but what caused it, for example Professor Cobbling who argues that apartheid historians had mischaracterised the Mfecane as a period of internally induced black-on-black destruction rather than that the roots of the conflicts be found exclusively in the labour needs of the Portuguese slave traders operating out of Delagoa Bay, in modern-day Mozambique. Critics assert that revisionist theories such as Cobbing’s placed too much weight on environmental factors and ignored the key roles played by dynamic human agents such as the Zulu King Shaka. The historian Elizabeth Eldredge challenged Cobbing’s thesis on the grounds that there is scant evidence of the resumption of the Portuguese slave trade out of Delagoa Bay before 1823, a finding that undermines Cobbing’s thesis that Shaka’s early military activities were a response to slave raids.

Irrespective of its underlying causes, the fact remains that during the Mfecane, Black people dispossessed fellow Blacks of land through force.

The following piece Dear Mr. Malema brilliantly written by Rian Malan, highlights the same issue and I think its important to reflect on what he is saying. I came across it by coincidence again today as the article was written in 2016 already by Malan and in response to Juluis Malema’s infamous words said at the time and quoted below:

“We are here unashamedly to disturb the white man’s peace. Because we have never known peace. We, the rightful owners, our peace was disturbed by white man’s arrival here. They committed a black genocide (my emphasis). They killed our people during land dispossession. Today, we are told don’t disturb them, even when they disturbed our peace. They found peaceful Africans here. They killed them! They slaughtered them, like animals! We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now…. But 1994 means NOTHING without the land! Victory will only be victory if the land is restored in the hands of rightful owners. And rightful owners unashamedly is black people. This is our continent, it belongs to us.”

http://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/dear-mr-malema

With regards to Black genocide committed by White people, Malan has the following to say:

“……You keep saying “genocide.” I’m not sure that’s the right term. In the 1980s, historians Leonard Thompson and Howard Lamar published a comparative study of the North American and South African frontiers. Someone stole my copy of that book and the precise details are fading, but it claims there were something like ten million “Red Indians” when the American frontier opened circa 1780, and only 250,000 left a century later. That’s genocide.

In SA, the numbers tell a different story. According to Thompson et al, there were around two million Africans when our frontier opened, also in 1780, and roughly double that number when it closed in 1880. Since then, the African population has grown at a healthy rate, apartheid notwithstanding. That’s why whites are now so heavily outnumbered, and why if you say, surrender your land, I have not much choice.”

I have copied the full contents of Malan’s article below:

“Dear Mr Malema:

I am writing in response to your recent remarks calling for whites to return the land to its rightful owners, failing which you may have to slaughter us. I think it’s good that you have put this issue under the spotlight, and I would like to help resolve it. 

I personally had nothing to do with what the EFF sees as the “mass butcher/slaughter of black people” by white land thieves in the colonial era. On the other hand, I am an Afrikaner with capitalist inclinations, so I am clearly guilty by association in your eyes. Hey, that’s all right by me. I’m not here to argue. I am here to find a solution, and to do that, it’s necessary for me to put my own land on the table and discuss what’s to be done with it.

This land (about 1200 square metres) is located in Emmarentia, Johannesburg, a good place to ponder our history because it is located at the foot of the Melville Koppies, where archeologists have unearthed a great deal of evidence about previous owners. Their findings can be summarized as follows:

1)  Around 250,000 years ago, Emmarentia was inhabited by our hominid ancestors. These creatures appear to have died out.

2)  Around 100,000 years ago, the first humans made their appearance. Unfortunately, I don’t know their names and their descendants have proved untraceable.

3)  Some twenty thousand years ago, the so-called San or Bushmen took up residence in a cave in the kloof near where Beyers Naude Drive cuts through the Koppies. Among the artefacts they left behind is a Stone Age device for making arrowheads. The whereabouts of their descendants is unknown.

4)  Around five hundred years ago, the first Tswana showed up. These were sophisticated people who used Iron Age furnaces to work minerals mined nearby. They also owned sheep and cattle and grew millet and sorghum along the banks of the stream which flows past my house.

On its face these Tswana would appear to be the only previous owners whose descendants are still living in the area, so in theory I should give my land to them. But when you look closely at the Tswana, a complicated picture emerges.

In the beginning, around 1700, almost all Tswana fell under the authority of the Hurutshe, a powerful tribe that exacted tribute from lesser Tswana chiefs and kept them in line.

Around 1750, things began to change. Nobody knows exactly why, but one suspected cause is the mealie, which arrived here around that time. Mealies boosted crop yields. More food led to population growth, which led to intensified competition for scarce resources. The Hurutshe hegemony was challenged and overthrown. Without proper supervision, minor chieftains started tooling up and making war on one another. The Fokeng attacked the Kgatla. Kgatla attacked the Po. Pedi fought the Kwena, and so on. According to the anthropologist Isaac Schapera, there were 26 civil wars in the decades prior  to 1820.

In response, Tswana kingdoms became increasingly militarised and autocratic, which is to say, they moved from level 3 societies, which were chilled, to levels 4 and 5, where kings and chiefs practiced an early form of capitalism, extracting labour and tribute from weaker vassals. Since the vassals did not necessarily like this, the more powerful Tswana chiefs began to concentrate their people in large towns, usually sited on easily defensible hilltops and surrounded by stone walls.

This did not help much. Analysis of Tswana praise poems and oral histories indicates that being a chief in Emmarentia and surrounds was a very dangerous occupation between 1700 and 1820. Of 71 chiefs mentioned in oral traditions, only 48 percent died in their beds. The rest were assassinated or killed in battle.

As a result of these factors it has proved difficult to establish exactly which Tswana grouping owned my land during this period of violence and confusion. Most likely, ownership changed several times, and at some point it was taken over by the Po, a Nguni people who controlled the Witwatersrand from a headquarters located near the Gillooly’s freeway interchange. Have you ever heard of these people? Ja, me neither, but don’t worry, because they were soon swept away by the Mfecane.

Contrary to popular belief, it seems the Mfecane was not really caused by Shaka Zulu. According to my readings, that man’s role has been exaggerated by Inkatha supporters who love to depict Shaka as a black Napoleon who single-handedly invented the short stabbing spear and the horns-and-chest battle formation, thereby changing history. 

More recent research holds that Shaka was just one of many southern African kings who more or less simultaneously embarked on a program of militarisation and nation building, thus leaping from level three to level five and in the process destabilizing their neighbours.

Shaka’s neighbours included the Hlubi, the Ngwane and the Swazi. After Shaka came to power around 1818, these people decided it would be wise to move onto the highveld to get away from him. But the nearest parts of the highveld were already occupied by the Phuting and Hlakwana, who lost their crops and cattle to the invaders and had to flee westward, into territories controlled by various Tswana entities. This resulted in a chain reaction that rolled on for years, turning the highveld into a zone of “persistent raiding and displacement” that shattered African social structures and turned many people into refugees.

Around 1824, Mzilikazi and the Ndebele arrived on the scene, also fleeing the Zulus. Mzilikazi was by far the most efficient of the level-five autocrats. He ate up all the tribes in his path, usually killing males and incorporating women and children into his own ranks. One exception to this was the Po, who reportedly saved themselves by submitting to Mzilikazi and joining his cause as “allies or slaves.”

One therefore assumes that the Po moved with Mzilikazi to Rustenburg district, where the Ndebele made their capital. The king lived in the very centre of the new empire, surrounded by loyal Ndebele commoners and swathes of pasture for the royal cattle. Beyond the pasture was a ring of tribute-paying vassal chiefs, and beyond them lay the march – a vast area that had been cleared of all human inhabitants. Mzilikazi trusted no-one, and wanted to make sure he could see his enemies coming.

I can’t be 100 percent sure, but I suspect Emmarentia was part of this so-called march. Here’s why. In 1836, an aristocratic British sportsman named Robert Cornwallis-Harris came this way to hunt big game. When he reached a range of hills which could have been the Witwatersrand he began to see the ruins of “extensive villages,” deserted save for a handful of “half-starved persons” hiding in the bushes. According to Cornwallis-Harris, the abandoned villages were strewn with broken earthen vessels, fragments of ostrich shell and game skins. And that’s almost exactly what archeologists find when they dig trenches on the koppie above my house.

Against this backdrop, your remarks about “peaceful Africans” strike me as somewhat odd. The last person to make such an argument was Joe Slovo, whose seminal “Colonialism of a Special Type” essay was riddled with black holes and omissions intended to present whites in the worst possible light. That’s because Slovo was desperate to ingratiate himself with black people and become your leader, an ambition which led directly to what you see as the great sellout of 1994. You surely know better than to trust a white man, sir.

But anyway, our story has just begun. The first white settlers showed up in Emmarentia a few months after the hunter Cornwallis-Harris. You seem to imagine these Voortrekkers as an army of genocidaires using guns and horses to drive peaceful Africans towards extinction. Not so. Mzilikazi opened the hostilities, massacring a party of Trekkers near the Vaal River and then stripping the Boers of all their livestock at Vegkop. At this point, the Tswana who’d previously dominated the area came out of hiding and offered their support to the Boers, which led to Mzilikazi’s defeat at the hands of multi-racial DA-style army at the battle of Mosega.

In the aftermath, Mzilikazi fled northwards across the Limpopo, and the Boers claimed “his” land as their own. The suburb where I live became the farm Braamfontein, property of the Bezuidenhout family. These were my people, but let me be the first to admit that they did not behave like civilized white liberals.

Instead, they emulated the African kings who came before them, exacting tribute (especially in labour) from subject chiefs and periodically raiding more distant neighbours for cattle and captives. Some of those captives, especially the children, became inboekelinge, or indentured servants, working on Boer farms for nothing until they were 25.

Let’s face it — this was a form of slavery, and we must answer for it. But the Fokeng and the Kgatla must answer too, because they were our partners in crime, constantly joining the Boers in “mutually beneficial” raids on surrounding tribes. As a result, the Kgatla (who lived around Sun City) and Fokeng (near Hartebeestpoort) became rich and powerful. According to historian Fred Morton, Kgatla chief Khamanyane (who ruled from 1853 to 1875) acquired an astonishing fortune in wives (43) and cattle, while many of his subjects “attained higher living standards than most Boers.”

Which is not to say that the Boers and their Tswana allies had it all their own way. On the contrary: the Boers were weak, and existed in a state of uneasy equilibrium with surrounding African principalities. Gert Oosthuizen, baas of the farm where I now live, would have been called out on kommando at least 14 times in his first thirty-odd years on the Highveld, but seldom returned home a victor.

Most Boer military campaigns ended in stalemate, and they were defeated on at least three occasions — by the Pedi in 1852, the Sotho in 1858, and the Venda in 1861. By 1867, they were under such pressure that they had to abandon the Soutpansberg, leaving behind a few stragglers who survived by paying tribute to their conquerors in the African way.

After the discovery of diamonds, Africans began to acquire guns and push back even harder. In 1870, the Boers abandoned Potgietersrus. In 1871, they lost another war against the Pedi. By 1877, they seemed to be in an extremely precarious position, which is why the British stepped in to annex the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek.

Beyond this point, your understanding of history becomes more tenable.  Professional soldiers sent by Queen Victoria crushed the Zulu and Pedi with considerable slaughter, as they’d previously crushed the Xhosa and were soon to crush the Boers. Black Africans wound up losing about two thirds of the land they’d held before 1652, and for this whites must answer. Then again, the British army had African auxiliaries in all its campaigns, so they must answer too.

But for what exactly? You keep saying “genocide.” I’m not sure that’s the right term. In the 1980s, historians Leonard Thompson and Howard Lamar published a comparative study of the North American and South African frontiers. Someone stole my copy of that book and the precise details are fading, but it claims there were something like ten million “Red Indians” when the American frontier opened circa 1780, and only 250,000 left a century later. That’s genocide.

In SA, the numbers tell a different story. According to Thompson et al, there were around two million Africans when our frontier opened, also in 1780, and roughly double that number when it closed in 1880. Since then, the African population has grown at a healthy rate, apartheid notwithstanding. That’s why whites are now so heavily outnumbered, and why if you say, surrender your land, I have not much choice.

But surrender it to whom? If we take the arrival of the first white settlers in 1836 as our point of departure, I should give my house to the descendants of Mzilikazi. But that won’t go down with the Tswana, who remember Mzilikazi as a bloody tyrant who robbed them of their birthright.

The Po might rematerialize and make a claim, and then there’s the Bushman to think about.  They were here long before anyone else, but vanished in the 1820s. Perhaps they also ran for their lives when they saw Mzilikazi coming, and took refuge in the Kalahari.

If so, this was a frying-pan-into-fire move, because the Tswana out there were short of labour, and they turned Bushmen and other vassal races (the Kgalagadi and Yei) into slaves who were exchanged for goods, passed on as heritable property and “controlled with startling brutality” by their masters. According to historian Barry Morton, slave herdsmen were “observed to live in an indescribable state of general squalor.” Death from malnutrition was “not uncommon,” and slaves were “punished and occasionally killed…for losing a single animal.”

According to Morton, evidence to back such claims lay hidden in plain sight in the archives, ignored for decades by researchers swarming into the Kalahari to study one of the world’s last hunter-gatherer populations. I can only surmise the researchers were white liberals who didn’t want to spoil the plot, which holds that it was the Boers who caused all the trouble in our history until they were overthrown by the saintly Mandela, thus giving birth to the Rainbow Nation.

Judging by your speeches, you detest white liberals even more than I do, which is why I have drawn all these complications to your attention. The fact of the matter, sir, is that all our ancestors have blood on our hands. More blood on mine than yours, at least at this point, but still: the only innocents in this story are the Bushman.

They were harmless level one people, with no chiefs and no material ambitions. Whites hunted them like wild animals, but your people were little better. The first British official to arrive at the royal court of the Xhosa (Sir John Barrow, c 1798) was told by King Hintsa, “My people exist in a state of perpetual warfare with the Bushmen.” Perhaps this helps us understand why the north-eastern portion of this country is littered with the relics of Bushmen who vanished long before white settlers came.

And so we come finally to the point of this letter. The victims and villains of history are beyond my reach, but I am not without conscience. I am sorry about all the Zulu who perished at the hands of Lord Chelmsford in 1879, and the Shona and Ndebele slaughtered by Rhodes’ Gatling guns. But I am particularly sorry about the Bushmen who used to live in the kloof above my house. They suffered greatly at the hands of people like us, and their claim to being the original and thus “rightful” owners of Emmarentia looks unassailable.

I therefore think it might be best if I share my land with my friend Errol, an Afrikaans-speaking coloured person with at least a bit of Bushman blood in his veins. He’s not black, strictly speaking, but at least he has an Afro. And his apartheid victim credentials are impeccable.

But before I go ahead, I would like to make sure this accords with the fast-track land reform scheme you envisage. If I do the right thing by Errol, will my life be spared?

Your swift reply awaited.

Rian Malan”

In conclusion I wish to state that I fully support the principle of land reform and that even though considerable progress has been made in this regard the current patterns of land ownership is still unsustainable. I also fully support the process of land restitution aimed at people and communities who had been dispossessed of land after 19 June 1913 as a result of racially discriminatory laws or practices the right to restitution of that property or to fair compensation.

I do however feel strongly that the processes going forward should not be based purely on emotion or incomplete or unreliable land audits and findings or the loose or one-sided interpretation of history or be based on historical facts that are simply not true or on double standards especially if it pits Black versus White rather than focussing on the end goal – giving all South Africans access to land for productive and wealth generation purposes.

Parliaments Motion on Land Expropriation without Compensation: A Critique (highlighting some historical fallacies and inaccuracies, dubious facts based on political expediency and posing some pertinent questions)

Parliament on 27 February 2018 adopted a motion to start a process to consider amending the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. The motion was supported with a vote of 241 in support, and 83 against with the DA, Freedom Front Plus, Cope and the ACDP voting against the motion.

Following the motion Graeme Codrington, a South African author, futurist and strategy consultant, wrote the following post on Facebook. In it he asks especially white people to rather listen and then calmly contribute to the conversation to find a solution that helps everyone.

He also asked that, before a person comment on the issue, they read the preamble of the motion put to Parliament and tell him how they would respond to the fact that the government land audit has found that less than 7% of land in South Africa is owned by private black individuals.

https://www.facebook.com/graeme.codrington/posts/10155419846821275

His post went viral and were shared many times over and commented on by many Facebook users. President Ramaphosa in Parliament even referred to the post when answering a parliamentary question on land reform and expropriation.

The debate on his post was generally well conducted and people from all sides and background commented. I came to the debate late but nevertheless took Codrington seriously and engaged the motion carefully and in detail and would like to offer the following critique of some of the aspects of the motion.

NOTE – Let me for the record say from the onset and before I’m unfairly accused of being an Apartheid denialist, that I fully support the principle of land reform and that even though considerable progress has been made in this regard the current patterns of land ownership is still unsustainable.

I do however feel strongly that the process going forward should not be based purely on emotion or incomplete or unreliable land audits and findings or the loose or one-sided interpretation of history or be based on historical facts that are simply not true or on double standards especially if it pits Black versus White rather than focussing on the end goal – giving all South Africans access to land for productive and wealth generation purposes.

I’m also not convinced that the answer to the land issue lies in expropriation without compensation when the governments own high level panel as recently as late last year found that the main constraints to land reform are the lack of political will, the lack capacity and increasing corruption and especially if one looks at the danger of this approach harming the South African economy and threatening food security, which threat are supported by recent historic evidence which the author of the following article Fast-tracking land reform could create a crisis, warns Zim activist pleads that South Africa take cognisance of:

https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/fast-tracking-land-reform-could-create-a-crisis-warns-zim-activist-14054783?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

Back to the motion adopted by Parliament, I have added my comments in Italics after each section of the motion below:

“The House –

(1) notes that South Africa has a unique history of brutal dispossession of land from black people by the settler colonial white minority;

Firstly, why the use of the words ‘settler colonial white community’ and then not by some populist politician, but by those duly elected as our representatives? I though as per the Preamble to our Constitution and in the words of the Freedom Charter, South Africa belong to all who live in it, Black and White, united in our diversity? 

The words settler indicates to White people that they don’t belong in the country of their birth. Gregory Stanton, the CEO of Genocidewatch.org, and anti-Apartheid activist, recently said that the first step towards genocide is the dehumanization of a group of people often by calling them settlers followed by subtle calls for them to be killed. How often are the White community not called settlers and then you have the words of populist like Julius Malema who just last year said that they, the EFF, are not calling for the slaughtering of White people, for now.

These are actions and words that if left unchallenged, are laying fertile ground for a situation to escalate into a genocide. I would have expected our duly elected public representatives to be more circumspect than to use a word that is as emotionally loaded such as settler.

Secondly, it might be an uncomfortable truth, but fact is that not only Black people were the victims of land dispossession in our recent past, White people also suffered dispossession.  Also, the perpetrators of dispossession were not exclusively White people, but Black people also dispossessed their fellow Blacks.  

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2018-03-09-land-restitution-demands-driven-by-the-pain-of-the-colonial-wound/

The article Land-restitution demands driven by the pain of the ‘colonial wound’ linked above highlights but one of the instances in which the White community, in this instance the Afrikaner, was disposed in a violent way from their farms –

“A version of this model was used to instigate a much more calamitous event, the Anglo-Boer War. It ended in by far the largest and most intense land grab in SA’s history (my emphasis), through martial law.

“Rebel” Boer farms were seized, and their inhabitants sent to the century’s first concentration camps, where 40,000 people of all races died. In an orgy of slaughter as part of a scorched-earth campaign decried in the British parliament as using the “methods of barbarism”, livestock and improvements were destroyed.”

Another example is the Boer Republic of Natalia with its capital Pietermaritzburg. The area was ceded by the Zulu king Dingane to Piet Retief and his followers in 1838 but the British simply annexed the territory in 1843, dispossessing the Boer citizens, to establish the Colony of Natal (NOTE – although Dingane and three witnesses on both sides signed the document, there is some contestation if Dingane fully understood what he did by signing the treaty with the Voortrekkers before he killed Retief’s whole party, but fact remains he signed a document giving ownership of some land to the Voortrekkers).

During Apartheid many White farmers were dispossessed of their property by the National Party government in their attempt to consolidate the territories of the former homelands. This left many of them bitter, but this is nowhere mentioned or acknowledged in this section of Parliament’s motion.

Coming to Black people dispossessing Black people the best and well-known example is the Mfecane (isiZulu) also known by the Sesotho name Difaqane or Lifaqane (all meaning “crushing, scattering, forced dispersal, forced migration”. This was a period of widespread chaos and warfare among indigenous Black communities in Southern Africa during the period between 1815 and about 1840 that did not just displace many communities and dispossessed them from their ancestral land, but led to the deaths of hundred of thousands of people

NOTE – Some historians questioned, not that the Mfecane happened, but what caused it, for example Professor Cobbling who argues that apartheid historians had mischaracterised the Mfecane as a period of internally induced black-on-black destruction rather than that the roots of the conflicts be found exclusively in the labour needs of the Portuguese slave traders operating out of Delagoa Bay, in modern-day Mozambique. Critics assert that revisionist theories such as Cobbing’s placed too much weight on environmental factors and ignored the key roles played by dynamic human agents such as the Zulu King Shaka. The historian Elizabeth Eldredge challenged Cobbing’s thesis on the grounds that there is scant evidence of the resumption of the Portuguese slave trade out of Delagoa Bay before 1823, a finding that undermines Cobbing’s thesis that Shaka’s early military activities were a response to slave raids.

Irrespective of its underlying causes, the fact remains that during the Mfecane, Black people dispossessed fellow Blacks of land through force, a fact that is not mentioned in this section of the motion. 

(2) further notes that land dispossession left an indelible mark on the social, political and economic landscape of the country, and has helped design a society based on exploitation of black people and sustenance of white domination;

Yes of course it left an indelible mark, just like the dispossession of Afrikaner of their farms and the wanton destruction of these farms and the livestock on it during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, left the Boer community in abject poverty and misery after the war. And yes, just like the Mfecane left an indelible mark on Black community following years of fighting that lead to famine and abject poverty. 

(3) acknowledges that the African majority was only confined to 13% of the land in South Africa while whites owned 87% at the end of the apartheid regime in 1994;

Maybe it was just a bad choice of words (which I would seriously not expect from our elected representatives), but this section clearly is factually incorrect. Firstly, by the end of 1994 the African majority were not confined (or then restricted or kept) to 13% of the land as stated, in fact by far the majority of Africans were living by 1994 outside of the homelands and on the so called 87% of land earmarked for Whites.

Secondly, even the Nationalist government during the 1980’s acknowledged the importance of home ownership to create a Black middle class and started a concerted process to transfer ownership of the matchbox houses to the people that have been living and renting them for decades from the state. I worked in the townships at the time and thousands upon thousands of Black people took advantage of this opportunity to become first time home owners. It’s to the ANC’s shame that today some 32 years later they have not concluded this process started by the National Party government.


Thirdly in the 1980’s the Nationalist government for the first time allowed private housing developments in the townships. Again, thousands upon thousands Black people bought houses and property from such developers and it transformed the urban landscape in the townships from only state-built matchbox houses to a mix of private middle class residential areas and matchbox houses.

Point I’m trying to make that is that surely it can’t be factually correct to say that by 1994 the % of Black ownership of land was still 13% as it was in 1913 and as this section of the motion argues.

It’s often said that the 1913 Land Act restricted Black people to only living on 13% of the land. Again, even in 1913 this was not historically true as even by then millions of Black people lived outside of the 13% and in what was then the White Union of South Africa. The renowned demographer, Prof P Smit estimated that by 1911 nearly 12,64% of the Black population were already living and working in just the major urban centres in the Union of South Africa (as opposed to rural towns) which increased to some 42% by 1970.

Of course, the Apartheid government tried their best to turn around the tide of Black urbanisation but failed miserably, however to argue that by 1913 and through to 1994 the whole Black population were restricted to live or lived at one time only on 13% of the land is clearly factually incorrect. Despite this this inaccuracy is still often quoted extensively locally and internationally as fact, as it was done again in this section of the motion.

What is also forgotten in the 87% versus 13% debate is that in 1913 Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho were also British colonies and for years thereafter there were talk of incorporating them into South Africa. These three territories were in truth homelands for the Tswana, Basotho and Swazi people and if these territories are taken into consideration, then in 1913 the division of land between those designated for Black people versus that for White people were more or less 50%/50%.

Last thing about the 87% versus 13% debate, those pointing out the Whites had 87% allocated to them never want to acknowledge that the full 87% was never in private White hands, in fact a large portion were in the hands of the State and companies, trusts and businesses. The argument was however that because it was a White minority government that it was fair and accurate to include and reflect such land as also in the possession of White people.

When exactly the same argument is proposed today in that some 42% of the land of South Africa is in the hand of the State and therefore under Black control given the fact that we have a Black majority government, it’s dismissed out of hand as nonsense, unfair or not logical. Why the double standards when it comes to how we view property rights throughout our troubled history?

(4) further acknowledges that the current land reform programme has been fraught with difficulties since its inception in 1994, and that the pace of land reform has been slow with only 8% of the land transferred back to black people since 1994;

So, the problem has correctly been identified. What then about a proper diagnosis to see what is in fact causing these difficulties? Did Parliament even consider when adopting this motion, the conclusions of its own High Level Panel which stated clearly that, “….. the need to pay compensation has not been the most serious constraint on land reform in South Africa to date (my emphasis) – other constraints, including increasing evidence of corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, lack of political will, and lack of training and capacity have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform”

(5) acknowledges that the recent land audit claims that black people own less than 2% of rural land, and less than 7% of urban land;

I could have referenced hundreds of articles critical of the government’s recent land audit and highlighting its many inconsistencies and statistical inaccuracies (I have copied some of them in postscript 5 below). Given this heightened focus on the land audit, I would have expected our public representatives to be extremely circumspect when they quote from it to make sure that they don’t exaggerate the discrepancy between white-owned land and black-owned land. Guess what, they however again failed the people they are representing when framing this section of the motion.

Here is but one of the many articles critical of the audit headed Ramaphosa and the EFF’s dodgy land stats.

http://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/ramaphosa-and-the-effs-dodgy-land-stats 

From the above article the actual picture of current ownership of land that should have been referenced in this section of the motion –

Urban Land – The motion states that Black people own less than 7% of urban land. The governments audit however states that 722 667 ha -22,6% of the 3,2m ha total – of erven are individually owned by 6 million people, of whom 3,32m were Black African (56%), 1,55m White (26%), 507 829 Coloured (8,46%), 414 069 Indian (6,9%) and 173 418 (2,9%) “other.” 56% is a far cry from the less than 7% referenced in this section of the motion.

Even if one look at the extent of urban land owned the picture do not come close to the 7% quoted in the section. 357 507 ha are owned by Whites (49,5%), 219 033 ha (30,3%) by Black Africans, 54 522 ha (7,5%) by Coloureds, 55 909 ha (7,7%) by Indians, 14 332 ha (2%), 14 332 ha under co-ownership (2%) and 21 365 (3%) by others. These statistics reflects the legacy of apartheid spatial planning which allocated much smaller erven to Black communities compared to White communities.

NOTE – The above figures ignores an obvious anomaly in the figures of ownership of urban land by White people in the Northern Cape (see the above article for more details). Excluding the Northern Cape from the figures changes the picture significantly- 0utside of this province 38.1% of individually owned erven are owned by White people, 40,2% by Black Africans, 7,8% by Coloureds and 7,9% by Indians

Its interesting to note that the figure of 7% quoted in this section was calculated by the EFF from the land audit by taking the above 219 033 ha owned by Black people and dividing it by the 3,2m ha total urban land in South Africa rather than dividing it by only the 722 667 ha owned by private individuals. Incidentally, if the same erroneous calculation used by the EFF is made for white people one could say that “only” 11% of urban land is owned by white people.

What then about the balance of the urban land (the 3,2m ha total minus the 722 667 ha in private hands)? The audit does not provide figures for the extent of erven owned by the state and parastatal corporations.

The following article however hints at an answer in which the governments own culpability in keeping land from Black ownership is evident.

http://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/can-the-numbers-in-the-2017-land-audit-be-trusted

The above article Can the numbers in the 2017 land audit be trusted? in its conclusion points out that according to –

“a team of academics — Royston, Cousins, Kingwill and Hornby — 30 million South African people live outside the titling system. According to this private research at least 23.5 million South African’s live on urban and rural State-owned land – 5 million in RDP houses they do not own at all; another 1.5 million in RDP houses with outdated or inaccurate title; 17 million in Communal Areas owned by the State and its proxies.

This land is not privately owned so there is little motive to invest in it and improve it in residential or agricultural terms. Thus half of the country do not own the places they live so they cannot raise credit or sell off and move to greener pastures. These numbers indicate that the real land hoarder in SA is the State. It would rather count on race-baiting than take account of its own role in immiserating half of the country. Half the country does not own the ground they sleep over because the State would rather keep all that to itself.”

If only the government concludes the process of transferring ownership to people who have rented their matchbox houses for decades (which I highlighted earlier), and address the 5 million in RDP houses that Black people do not own at all and the other 1.5 million in RDP houses with outdated or inaccurate title, the picture of urban land ownership will change dramatically to be as follows in terms of a reasonable estimation:

The number of people owning land in urban areas will increase to some 12,5 million people, of whom 9,82m will Black African (78,56% as compared to the current 56%), 1,55m White (12,4% as compared to the current 26%), 507 829 Coloured (4,06% compared to 8,46%), 414 069 Indian (3,31% compared 6,9%) and 173 418 (2,9%) “other.”

Rural land – This section of the motion states that Black people own less than 2% of rural land. Its not evident where this comes from as the percentage of Black ownership of farms and agricultural holdings as per the audit is 3.5% compared to 71,9% owned by White people. The latter figure was employed by the EFF and Ramaphosa and others during the debate on the motion, but using this figure in isolation is misleading for three reasons according to the author of the following article Ramaphosa and the EFF’s dodgy land stats.

http://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/ramaphosa-and-the-effs-dodgy-land-stats 

The three reasons are the following as per the above article;

  1. Individually-owned rural land makes up less than a third of the extent of land in South Africa, according to the land audit itself. This means that individually-owned rural land, held by whites, makes up only 21.9% of the extent of South Africa. This is less than the extent held by the State. There is substantial variation by province with under 10% of the total extent of Limpopo and KZN individually owned by White “farm” owners, 12.6% in Mpumalanga, 15,1% in Gauteng, 17,8% in the Eastern Cape.
  2. It pays no regard to the agricultural potential or value of the land. A substantial majority of this individually-owned white-owned land is located in arid or semi-arid areas in the western part of the country. 43,1% is in the Northern Cape alone, 11,3% in the Eastern Cape (most of it in the drier western parts of the province), 10,14% of it in the Western Cape, and 14,1% in the Free State.
  3. Thirdly, the ANC and EFF have seized on a metric in the debate that effectively ‘disappears’ both the land that has been transferred to Black hands by the ANC government since 1994, and that was already in Black hands pre-1994. Ramaphosa suggestion that despite 3,1m hectares being “restored” between 1994 and 2014 Black African people (through land restitution) “only own 4%” of individually owned land is somewhat disingenuous.

a) First-off the more appropriate figure for “restoration” is in fact 8,1 million hectares (6,6% of the extent of SA), as a further 5 million hectares of agricultural land has been acquired and transferred by government since 1994 through its land redistribution programme. (In an area covering another 2,2m hectares financial compensation was accepted by claimants in lieu of land restitution).

b) Little of this land would be shown as individually owned today as most land claims and redistribution projects had multiple beneficiaries, and furthermore since 2009 the government has held back from granting title to the beneficiaries of the land redistribution programme. In addition, government has made no effort to ensure those living on their ancestral land in former homeland areas acquire individual title to their land. It is unclear how such restituted and redistributed land was categorised by the land audit – other than as not individually owned – but it quite clearly qualifies as ‘black owned’ land, and it would have taken little to quantify it accordingly in the report.

What the article therefore in summary says is that the percentage of rural land in individual Black hands would have been much higher if most of the redistribution projects did not have multiple beneficiaries and if government back in 2009 did not decide to hold back from granting title to such beneficiaries. Such land is for all intent and purposes however Black owned and should have been classified as such in the land audit which would paint a totally different picture than the 2% quoted in this section of the motion.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-03-13-op-ed-the-land-audit-incomplete-information-and-bad-policy/#.WrfRH4hua03

In the above article Op-Ed: The land audit – incomplete information and bad policy the author is extremely critical of governments reluctance to transfer title of land in instances of land redistribution to the Black beneficiaries –

“Under colonial and apartheid rule, freehold title was typically denied to Africans. Such land as they did have access to would be held ‘in trust’ for them, by the state or by traditional leaders. This has continued after the advent of democracy. Indeed, land redistribution policy – notably expressed through the State Land Lease and Disposal Policy – is now premised on the idea that people receiving land will, for the most part, not own it.

Prof Ruth Hall of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies described this in harsh but accurate terms: “This is a policy that says that black people are not to be trusted with land.”

The landholdings to which African people may have “access”, or which they may work and occupy, are certainly larger than the relatively small amount registered to African individuals. And it is a matter of profound disappointment that since 1994, so little has been done to ensure that the “assets” of African people (or, perhaps more accurately, the “assets to which they have access”) could become real “property”.”

The article also references a 2017 study by Agri SA which found, compared to the governments land audit, that Black people already own more than half of all agricultural land in two of South Africa’s most fertile provinces: The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It also found that landowners who are not white own 26.7% of agricultural ground and control more than 46% of South Africa’s agricultural potential and that twice as much land has been transferred to black entrepreneurs and farmers through ordinary commercial purchases than the state has managed to buy for black owners as part of its land redistribution programme.

(6) Recognises that the current policy instruments, including the willing buyer willing seller policy, and other provisions of section 25 of the Constitution may be hindering effective land reform.;

Its illustrative of the motives behind this motion that this section highlights but one aspect and then the issue of willing buyer willing seller, when Parliaments High Level Panel found that it was by far not the most serious stumbling block to land reform.

[clause 7 removed in amendment]

(8) notes that in his State of the Nation Address , President Cyril Ramaphosa, in recognizing the original sin of land dispossession, made a commitment that Government would continue the land reform programme that entails expropriation of land without compensation, making use of all mechanisms at the disposal of the State, implemented in a manner that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid and undertake a process of consultation to determine the modalities of the governing party resolution.”;

This is going to be a tall order – implementing expropriation of land without compensation whilst at the same time not affecting food security or harming the already fragile economy of South Africa.

Why then even take on these considerable risks when the Constitution as it currently stands does not preclude expropriation without compensation under certain conditions as set out in the following article?

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2018-03-02-there-is-a-way-to-expropriate-while-protecting-property-rights/

To quote from the above article There is a way to expropriate while protecting property rights

“….it is possible for expropriation without compensation to co-exist with property and ownership rights. This is how.

At issue is section 25 of the Constitution. Section 25 (2) says: “Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application — (a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; (b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.”

In section 25(3) the criteria for compensation are set out: “The amount of the compensation … must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interest of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including – (a) the current use of the property; (b) the history of acquisition and use of the property; (c) the market value of the property; (d) the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property; and (e) the purpose of the expropriation.

The definition of “just and equitable” is so generous that it is possible, and has been so since 1996, that in certain circumstances it would be just and equitable for the compensation award to be zero. Had such cases been brought before the courts, which they have not, there would by now be a tested interpretation of the “just and equitable” principle, says Adv Geoff Budlender, the first director-general of the Department of Land Affairs after 1994.”

Given the aforementioned again one cannot but question the political motives of those now aiming at a constitutional amendment that holds considerable risks to the country.

(9) further notes that any amendment to the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation must go through a parliamentary process as Parliament is the only institution that can amend the Constitution; and

One section of the motion that’s spot on but given my comments on the previous section, why even embark on this route given the well-known risks?

(10) with the concurrence of the National Council of Provinces instructs the Constitutional Review Committee to –

  • (a) review section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses where necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation, and in the process conduct public hearings to get the views of ordinary South Africans, policy-makers, civil society organisations and academics, about the necessity of, and mechanisms for expropriating land without compensation;
  • (b) propose the necessary constitutional amendments where applicable with regards to the kind of future land tenure regime needed, and
  • (c) report to the Assembly by no later than 30 August 2018.

Section setting out the mechanics of implementing the motion which include the need to get the input from ordinary South Africans on the matter and I have no specific comment on this section.

In conclusion let me repeat my motivation for writing this rather long opinion piece. I feel strongly that the process of consultation on the motion of Parliament (faulty and full of inaccuracies as it may be) and arriving at a solution to the land question, must not be based purely on emotion or incomplete or unreliable land audits and findings or the loose or one-sided interpretation of history or be based on historical facts that are simply not true or on double standards, especially if it pits Black versus White, rather than focussing on the end goal – giving all South Africans access to land for productive and wealth generation purposes.

Postscript 1: I acknowledge that in order to get the EFF’s initial proposed motion on land expropriation amended with their consent, the ANC had to give and take in the final wording of the motion. Some of the above critique on the governing party may therefore seem to be harsh. Fact is however that the ANC did not require the support of the EFF to counter the EFF’s original motion with a more nuanced one, as they has sufficient votes in Parliament to have done so.

Postscript 2: What is for me more instructive of the ANC real motivation this time around is that the party in March 2017 (yes just a year back) rejected an earlier EFF motion to expropriate land without compensation. At the time the ANC said that expropriation of land should be done for public purpose and public interests, not for the EFF purpose and the EFF interests and that as expropriation without compensation is unconstitutional , Parliament need to respect and uphold the Constitution. My question is what has changed since March last year? The answer is plain for all to see – political expediency in trying to out manoeuvre the EFF a year ahead of a national election, unfortunately, in my view, at the expense of us as citizens and at great risk to the South African economy.

Postscript 3: I pointed out some of the above facts and fallacies in some of the comments I submitted as my honest attempt in contributing constructively to the expropriation without compensation debate on Graeme Codrington’s Facebook posts. He first accused me of nitpicking and later of prefacing my input in whiteness and white privilege and that I showed very little effort to see or acknowledge other perspectives. He also joked that I own the complete encyclopedia of white male talking points on a full range of topics. I found his assertion about my motivation insulting and worrying if not puzzling. I have asked him to clarify why he feel so, failing which I might consider doing a separate blog post on my interaction with him on his post.

Postscript 4: Others, including Codrington at times, accused me of defending the white position by raising criticism during the debate rather than engaging in an open manner. To this I responded that I critiqued the land policy because any government’s policy on land must be based on verifiable information that everybody trusts is an accurate picture of the status quo. That’s not being defensive, that’s good and common practice and what I would think should underpin any meaningful debate or engagement.

Postscript 5: Herewith some of the articles that have not been included in this opinion piece, on the government’s recent land audit and other issues related to expropriation without compensation –

 

Banning the Old SA Flag – Yes or No?

Other than the debate about the land issue no other issue elicits as much responses in our public discourse as the debate as to whether the old South African flag should be banned. The matter was brought to a head when the Nelson Mandela Foundation recently asked the Equality Court to declare “gratuitous and unwarranted” displays of the old South African flag as hate speech. In its application the Foundation submitted that displaying the old apartheid-era flag constituted hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment based on race.

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/equality-court-asked-to-declare-gratuitous-displays-of-old-sa-flag-as-hate-speech-20180228

AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel in response to the Foundations application said that they did not agree with the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s move to ban the old South African flag. He remarked that as Afriforum they don’t use the old South African flag at any of their events but felt that banning the flag would be a setback for freedom of speech and democracy, “if you start banning things, what is next?” he asked.

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/afriforum-against-mandela-foundations-attempt-to-ban-gratuitous-displays-of-apartheid-flag-20180301

In another response the activist Johan Pienaar said that he wanted people to start talking about the old South African flag. He laid down the old Oranje, Blanje, Blou (orange, white, blue) with names of some of the most prominent apartheid architects and enablers written on it, inviting attendees of the US Woordfees in Stellenbosch to walk on it.

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/we-need-to-have-a-discussion-about-the-old-flag-20180307

The flag was however stolen when somebody handed him a note that the flag is now expropriated without compensation.

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/this-flag-is-now-expropriated-without-compensation-attempt-made-to-steal-old-sa-flag-used-in-protest-20180308

The anti-racism project team at The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation also weighed in on the subject by arguing that the old flag keeps us rooted in our ugly past.

https://www.news24.com/Columnists/GuestColumn/oranje-blanje-blou-keeps-us-anchored-in-the-ugly-past-20180316

I don’t want in this post to necessarily go into the merits of the arguments set out by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in support of their views other than to say I find their gratuitous use of the words “Black Majority Country” offensive as if South Africa do not belong to all who live in it, Black and White. If the standards of how we as South Africans is to be defined going forward are simply going to be by what the majority wants, then I’m afraid we are on the slippery road to a majority dictatorship (to illustrate this further its generally accepted that the majority of people in South Africa wants the death penalty to be bought back but this would clearly be unconstitutional).

What then is my view on the possible banning of the old South African flag. Whilst displaying the apartheid flag anywhere in public is currently not illegal in South Africa, I feel strongly that its display in public spaces is a clear a sign of disrespect and lack of consideration for the feelings of Black people for whom this flag remains a strong reminder of a painful past. I won’t therefore ever personally display the old South African flag or wear any clothing with it because I appreciate that the flag has a political connotation that many of my fellow South African’s find offensive.

Having said that I’m for several reasons also totally against banning the old flag including its display by those that still choose to do so. In the first place banning it will just drive its display underground by those that still see it as a symbol of White supremacy. It’s banning will create an unnecessary rallying call for those that want to try and regain the power they lost.

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Secondly, why would we in a democratic South Africa want to be like the Apartheid government who banned all those things they did not like, found offensive or a danger to their ideology like books, political parties, undesirable people and yes also flags like that of the ANC or SACP.

Talking about the SACP flag brings to me to my third reason for not wanting to ban the old flag – if its banned because of its political connection to Apartheid and the trauma and humiliation suffered by Black people then so must the communist flag, which is part of the SAPC’s heritage, also be banned as the said flag is tied to untold trauma suffered by millions of people worldwide under successive oppressive communist regimes.

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The fourth reason is that the flag, despite its political connection, is still part of our history and that its banning will not remove this fact. Our history books will be incomplete without the old flag being displayed therein serving as a reminder to us all, painful as it is, of our troubled past. Just as the British Union Jack as part the old South African flag reminded Afrikaners of the trauma and humiliation suffered under the British imperialist before, during and after the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.

The fifth reason is that if the old flag is banned, will eventually also lead to our current beautiful national flag being questioned at some time, by populist like Julius Malema as its represents from a heraldic point of view a synthesis of some of our previous flags including, yes also the old SA flag. It contains the two “Colonial era” flags – The national flag of the Netherlands (Dutch flag) – Red, White, Blue and the British Union flag – Blue, White, Red. Then the two former Boer Republic flags – the South African Republic (Transvaal) “Vier Kleur” – Green, Red, White and Blue and the Orange Free State Republic Flag (using the Dutch insert flag and the white) and then finally the African National Congress (ANC) Flag – Black, Green and Gold (which colours are also present in the Inkatha Freedom Party and Pan African Congress flags).

South-African-Flag

For further information on the history and symbolism of all South Africa’s national flags see the following excellent article on “The inconvenient and unknown history of South Africa’s national flags” written by Peter Dickens:

https://samilhistory.com/2017/03/15/the-inconvenient-and-unknown-history-of-south-africas-national-flags/

In the article the author has the following to say about the symbolism embedded in our new flag and what its means for the detractors of both the new SA flag and the old SA flag:

“The V symbolises inclusion and unification. In essence it is another flag of “Union” (unity) only this time acknowledging the county’s Black population and its historical heritage.  Symbols considered in the design of the “new” flag included Catholic and Anglican Priest’s Classic Chasubles, the universal symbol of Peace and the married Zulu female traditional head-dress.

There are some claims that the “New” South African flag is just a “design” with no meaning or symbolism – but that’s not the opinion of the man who designed it – Frederick Gordon Brownell.  Also, I find that whenever that when this argument is used it’s usually to deny meaning to the new South Africa flag and to degrade the country, describing it as “jockey Y front underpants,” when in fact the truth is the opposite and the flag is stuffed full of meaning and symbolism.

In fact, the “New” South African flag reflects all the old flags of South Africa, these exist right there for all to see, plain as day to the trained eye (and even the untrained eye) – symbolically placed in the new flag – and that’s an inconvenient truth to both the “new” flag’s detractors and the detractors of the “old” OBB (old SA flag).”

My sixth and last reason and for me personally the most important reason (and which I will therefore take time to explain as best as I can) is that, although I will never display the old flag for the reasons as stated above, it still has great sentimental value for me and many White South Africans, not because it reminds me (and hopefully the majority of my fellow White South Africans) of White supremacy, but because it’s the only flag under which we grew up.

For many many South Africans life as we know it did not start in 1994 and we have memories, some of it good and some not so good, from long before 1994. These memories include growing up in the old South Africa and being patriotic countrymen proud of our heritage and our country with all its beauty, but yes also with all its warts including the failed and tragic attempt at social engineering called Apartheid. For me and many other White South Africans the old flag was a symbol of a country that we loved and in which we were growing up. A country that despite all that was bad, was still the most advanced economy and developed country in Africa by far with many technological advances that was the envy of the rest of the world, a country that denied communism as it existed then to take a foothold, communism which at that time not only denied millions of people the right to vote in all communist countries, but which as I stated above, also killed millions upon millions of people in all parts of the world.

In summary therefore I will never display the old flag and try and convince those that still do so that it’s definitely not the right thing to do, but even if the old flag is eventually banned it won’t deny me the right to feel sentimental about the old flag just as I will never allow anybody to deny my love and admiration for our beautiful new South Africa national flag and for our changed country which now rightfully embrace all its people as first class citizens.

Footnotes:

  1. Whilst I appreciate that the old SA flag is offensive to Black South African’s as it reminds them of the discrimination they suffered under Apartheid, its important to note that the old SA flag was born out of the ideals of 1910 Union led by Jan Smuts and Louis Botha and not under the Apartheid ideals of 1948 of DF Malan and HF Verwoerd.
  2. When the National Party came into power in 1948 they wanted the old SA flag changed as they detested what they called the “Bloed Vlek” (Blood Stain) which was the British Union Flag inserted in the flag. This was a National party pet hate as it reminded many Afrikaner nationalists of British decimation of Boer families and farms during the Boer war. However broader public pressure at the time prevented the initial National Party proposals for a flag change from been passed by the SA Parliament and the idea was eventually shelved (see the article of Peter Dickens for more on the actual history of the old SA flag).
  3. The fact that the old SA flag was not the creation of the Apartheid idealists but those that came before them answers the question of many in support of banning the old flag namely why we should it not be banned it if the Nazi flag was banned as a symbol of hate in post war Germany. Fact is that the Nazi flag was designed and introduced by the Nazi party specifically as the national symbol of their murderous National Socialist regime whereas the old flag was as set out in 1 and 2 above not the creation of the Apartheid regime.
  4. Those in favour of banning the old flag often refers to the hurt they feel if they see it displayed in public. In response I have asked how regularly they in fact are exposed to its public display as I’m personally only aware of a few idiots and by far a minority of participants that did so during last year’s #BlackMonday protests (and even then the argument that it was displayed gratuitously at the event was wholesomely discredited when it emerged that certain unscrupulous journalists used previous pictures of the old flag on display saying it was from the #Black Monday event) . I drive around the country a lot given my work commitments and I’m yet to see or view the old flag being displayed openly in public view other than at the Castle in Cape Town.

Analysis of the Metsimaholo 2017 by-election results and the coalition prospects in this Free State Municipality

INTRODUCTION

Following the 2016 local elections, South Africa was gripped with coalition fever, with 27 municipalities having hung councils where no one political party has more than 50% of the allocated seats.

Forming coalitions is an exercise in real politics ( politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises) and its therefore dangerous to predict the outcome of any coalition negotiations beforehand. Relying on what is speculated in the mainstream media is especially fraught with danger as evidenced in this article looking at what transpired in 2006 in Cape Town when parties were also faced with a hung council scenario Anatomy of a coalition coup: Are there lessons ahead of the August election?

In this blog post I will look at the municipal by-election that took place in the Metsimaholo  Municipality in the Free State on 29 November 2017, analyse the result and compare it with the 2016 local government elections that took place on 3 August 2016 and indicate what the most likely coalition government would be seeing that the no party again received 50 %+ of the allocated seats.

BACKGROUND

  • Total seats: 42
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 22
  • Seat allocation: ANC 19, DA 12, EFF 8, MCA 2, FF+ 1
  • Scenario: The ANC short 3 seats for a majority and the DA 10
  • Possible coalitions available at the time: The ANC could have partnered with the DA or EFF individually or together with the two smaller parties or just with the MCA (the Metsimaholo Community Association, a local party that might hold the balance of power) and FF+ who together holds 3 seats. The DA could have formed a coalition with the ANC or EFF but in the latter instance they will require the support of the one or both of the smaller parties.

COALITION FORMED AFTER THE 2016 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION

The Democratic Alliance (DA) formed a coalition in the end with the Metsimaholo Community Association (MCA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), to govern the municipality. The MCA’s Sello Hlasa was elected mayor, while Arnold du Ploy and Linda Radebe of the DA were elected Speaker and Council Whip respectively.

COALITION COLLAPSED IN JULY 2017

The municipal council failed to adopt a budget for the 2017/18 financial year because of disagreements between the coalition members. As a result the council was dissolved in July 2017 and an administrator appointed by the provincial government.

For an overview of what went wrong with the DA, EFF, FF+ and MCA coalition read the following two articles:


Dissolving of council welcomed by DA

RUN-UP TO THE 2017 BY-ELECTION

The run-up to the by-election was dominated by the news that the SAPC decided to field 42 candidates to contest the Metsimaholo by-election, a turning point for the party in that it for the first time contested elections alone without its alliance partner, the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

SACP fields 42 candidates in historic first solo by-election

SACP contesting Free State by-election ‘regrettable’, says ANC

SACP ‘Hasty’ Regarding Metsimaholo By-Elections – Cosatu

The SACP has the ANC over a barrel in Metsimaholo municipality

Metsimaholo by-elections an experiment to dislodge the ANC

Municipality up for grabs

Will the Metsimaholo by-elections bring relief to its beleaguered residents?

By-Election preview: All eyes on the big contest in Metsimaholo, Free State

ELECTION DAY – 29 NOVEMBER 2017

Despite claims of irregularities and vote rigging in the Metsimaholo Municipality by-elections, the Local Government Minister Des Van Rooyen who was overseeing the process felt that all went well on election day –

Minister van Rooyen happy with Metsimaholo by-election

Earlier it was reported that Minister van Rooyen left Metsimaholo after EFF supporters allegedly blocked him from entering a polling station –

Van Rooyen leaves ‘voluntarily’ after EFF supporters allegedly block him in Metsimaholo

The SACP claimed that there was irregularities in the voting process –

SACP cries foul over Metsimaholo by-election voting process

The ANC called for an investigation into allegations of vote rigging in Metsimaholo –

ANC calls for an investigation into the allegations of vote rigging in Metsimaholo

2017 METSIMAHOLO BY-ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

Following the counting of the votes the IEC announced the Metsimaholo election results late on Friday 3 December 2017:

IEC releases Metsimaholo by-election results

Mets 1

Mets 2

The by-election results is depicted in the pictures above and summarised in the table below comparing it to the 2016 and 2011 local government election results:

Political Party

2011 % Votes

2016 % Votes

% Shifts 2011 to 2016

2017 % Votes

% Shifts 2016 to 2017

ANC

63.04 %

45.08 % – 17.96 % 30.24 %

– 14.84 %

DA

28.97 %

35.22 % + 6.25 % 24.36 %

– 10,86 %

EFF Did not participate

17.87 %

+ 17.87 % 17.47 %

– 0.40 %

SAPC Did not participate

n/a

Did not participate

7.58 %

+ 7.58 %

Of the smaller parties the FF+ increased its percentage of the vote from 2.14% to 3.02%, the MCA’s percentage dropped from 4.91% to 1.48% whilst the support for COPE and the ACDP remained fairly constant. The Matatiele-based AIC party had an impressive foray into Metsimaholo. They won a PR seat and 2.11% of the vote.

FINAL ALLOCATION OF THE AVAILABLE 42 SEATS

Final seat allocation based on the by-election result were as follows:

  • ANC 16 (three less than in 2016),
  • DA 11 (one less than in 2016),
  • EFF 8 (sames as in 2016),
  • SACP 3 (did not participate in 2016),
  • MCA 1 (one less than in 2016),
  • FF+ 1 (same as in 2016),
  • AIC 1 (did not participate in this municipality in the 2016 elections),
  • F4SD 1 (did not participate in this municipality in the 2016 elections).

REACTION TO AND ANALYSIS OF THE 2017 BY-ELECTION OUTCOME

The following articles sets out some of the reactions to the outcome of the 2017 by-election in Metsimaholo:

Metsimaholo hangs in limbo as by-elections has no outright winner

‘Really massive collapse’ in ANC support in Free State by-election

ANC support down in Metsimaholo, SACP pick up 3 seats – IEC

DA Metsimaholo has voted for a new beginning – Patricia Kopane

Metsimaholo’s elections send strong signal – SACP

An analysis of by-election result in Metsimaholo indicates that:

  1. The ANC is continuing to loose voter support at an alarming rate (since the 2011 local government elections to the latest 2017 by-election their support in Metsimaholo dropped by a staggering 32%). The majority of their losses can be ascribed to voters voting for the EFF in 2016 and now again in 2017 and to the SACP in 2017. They also lost votes to other parties such as the DA and other smaller parties but up to 25% of their losses are the result of voter support gained at their expense by the EFF and SACP. This indicates how critical the SACP is for the ANC continued power base and the party will have to put all its energy into mending the fences with their alliance partner before the 2019 general election.
  2. The by-election result also confirmed the trend that the ANC’s support base is more robust in rural areas than suburban or urban areas as they did better in more rural based wards of Metsimaholo compared to those in the towns. The ANC will have to somehow regain the trust of the urban voters if it wants to have any hope of governing again nationally after the 2019 general election.
  3. The DA percentage of the votes in 2017 compared to 2017 dropped by nearly some 11%. While the party was propelled by high turnout in the suburbs in 2016, turnout this time round was sharply down in vote-rich areas for the DA, averaging at about 25% less than 2016. There was lower turnout in the ANC-held wards as well, but the lower turnout was not as pronounced.
  4. It also seems as if many former white DA voters in Metsimaholo this time around voted for the FF+ which indicates some extent of disillusionment with DA’s direction under Mmusi Maimane with many feeling that the DA has become nothing else than an ANC light version. This is a trend that the DA will have to counter if it wants to build on its election gains of previous national and local government elections.
  5. The DA also did not have enough growth in the townships of Metsimaholo to mask their decreasing returns in the suburbs, and ultimately increase their representation on the council. The DA will have to do better in the townships in 2019 it wants to build on its election gains of previous national and local government elections.
  6. The EFF made great strides in some township wards but their growth was not uniform, and in some ANC-held Metsimaholo wards their share of the vote went down. They ended up where they began with eight seats. The EFF did not manage to increase their percentage of the overall vote in the 2017 election compared to that of 2016 in the end, leading to questions as to whether the party is about to reach a ceiling of voter support?
  7. The SACP had a solid showing in their first electoral foray and was allocated 3 PR seats on the Metsimaholo Council. They came very close to also winning Ward 3 (Refengkgotso Deneysville), where the ANC beat them by 34 votes, getting 35% of the vote compared to their 34%. The SACP was able to get over 10% of the vote in six of the 16 ANC held wards. Will the SACP continue contesting elections or put that strategy on hold if their preferred candidate wins the presidential race at the ANC conference in a few weeks’ time?
  8. Despite the FF+’s solid growth on election day, they still only have one seat on Council. They were able to hurt the DA, but were not able to attract enough DA voters to get an additional PR seat.
  9. As indicated earlier the AIC had a an impressive foray into Metsimaholo. They won a PR seat and will be an ally for the ANC if they have any chance of ruling in Metsimaholo.
  10. The MCA ended up holding onto one of their two seats but will struggle to be the factor they were in Metsimaholo after the 2016 election.
  11. The F4SD did well to gain one seat following the election.
  12. The number of political parties represented on the Metsimaholo Council increased from only 5 in 2016 to 8 in 2017. I would not say that this is any indication that in future voters will be willing to vote in large numbers for smaller parties as in my view this is a trend typically only found in local government elections.

2017 POSSIBLE COALITION SCENARIOS IN METSIMAHOLO

  • Seats required for overall majority = 22.
  • Scenario: The ANC requires 6 seats to form a majority and the DA 11.
  • Possible coalitions for the ANC: The ANC could partner with the DA or EFF individually or together with the other smaller parties to form a coalition government. Such a coalition with either the DA or EFF would however be highly unlikely and to govern without the DA or EFF they will have to secure the support of the SACP and three of the four smaller parties namely the FF+, AIC, MCA or F4SD who each gained 1 seat.
  • Possible coalitions for the DA: The DA could form a coalition with the ANC or EFF but in the instance of the EFF they will require the support of either the SACP or three of the four smaller parties namely the FF+, AIC, MCA or F4SD who each gained 1 seat.

The following article sets out the three possible coalition scenarios:

By-Election: Metsimaholo – with no outright winner and entry of SACP, prepare for strange bedfellows

The three possible coalition scenarios are as follows:

“Scenario 1: DA (11) + EFF (8) + VF+ (1) + MCA (1) + F4SD (1) 22/42

The most likely scenario would see the DA returning the favour to the EFF. This week the EFF lent their votes to the DA to help defeat motions of no confidence against the respective mayors of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. The two parties together would have 19 out of the 22 votes needed to form a coalition which could govern in Metsimaholo. The most palatable party for both to work with would be the F4SD. Both parties were willing to work with the F4SD to rule in Rustenburg in North West. The F4SD was formed by aggrieved ANC members and they are more likely to work the opposition then the ANC. The opposition would need another two votes. The VF+ are not going to work with the ANC. The question is whether the EFF would want them in a coalition, and/or whether their supporters would tolerate them sitting with the EFF (and potentially the SACP). The MCA supported the opposition after the 2016 election. While the party was split, the leader who worked with the ANC is no longer in the party, and it is more plausible to expect them to work with the opposition again. So, the EFF and the DA have a realistic path to the needed 22/42 seats. The elephant in the room is the SACP and their valuable three seats.”

“Scenario 2: ANC (16)+SACP (3) + AIC (1) + MCA (1)-21/42 Hung Council.

The ANC knows that the first party to join them in a coalition in Metsimaholo would not be their tripartite alliance partner, the SACP, but the AIC. The ANC (16) + AIC (1) would leave the ANC five short of the magical number of 22. Let’s assume that Gwede Mantashe can broker a deal between the ANC and the SACP, and even offer the SACP the mayoral chain – that would still only take the ANC coalition to 20. They would be two short. The MCA had mixed feelings last time, and maybe the ANC could persuade them again. We would now be in hung council territory: 21. Unless the ANC offered the F4SD some rich pickings in Rustenburg, where they could offer them a place in the coalition, it is unlikely for the F4SD to work with the ANC. We know that the DA, the EFF and the VF+ will not work with the ANC. Thus it is more plausible that the ANC will not be governing in Metsimaholo.”

“Scenario 3: DA (11) + EFF (8) + SACP (3)

Ironically, a scenario which would be most stable numerically but the least stable ideologically would be a coalition with the DA (11) EFF (8) and the SACP (3) which would give them 22 seats. The DA would have to resign itself to either an EFF or an SACP mayor. The coalition could count on support from the F4SD, VF+ and possibly the MCA on policies which would suit the smaller parties, but at the same time they would not be held ransom by the smaller parties. The DA would be reluctant passengers here, but no scenario is ideal for them. Neither scenario 2 nor 3 is ideal for the SACP, and of course, scenarios 1 and 3 are not ideal for the EFF. Strange bedfellows will be holding hands in Metsimaholo.”

CONCLUSION

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has indicated that it is willing to enter into a coalition with the ANC in Metsimaholo municipality in the Free State provided the governing party meets its “conditions” which include a commitment to respect the people, fight corruption and tackle corporate capture.

SACP sets terms for ANC coalition

Where to now for Metsimaholo?

The most likely outcome for me would be a coalition between the DA (11), EFF (8), FF+ (1), MCA (1) and the F4SD (1) giving such a coalition the 22 votes to form a majority government in Metsimaholo. Only time will however tell as coalition politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows.

 

Helen Zille, the ‘unrepentant closet racist colonialist” versus the Dependency Brigade

If you do a quick search of the internet using the words ‘Zille’ and ‘colonialism’ and ‘tweet’ your computer screen will explode with links to so many articles, that for a moment you will think that she put the social welfare payments to 17 Million poor South Africans at risk….. sorry I have got the wrong story but a story I nevertheless must come back to in a future blog post.

Most ostracised Zille for her now ‘infamous’ tweet that “for those claiming the legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.” This tweet is often read in isolation from Zille’s other series of tweets on the matter which read as follows:

  • Much to learn from Singapore, colonised for as long as SA, and under brutal occupation in WW2. Can we apply the lessons in our democracy?
  • Singapore had no natural resources and 50 years ago, was poorer than most African countries. Now they soar. What are the lessons?
  • I think Singapore lessons are: 1) Meritocracy; 2) multiculturalism; 3) work ethic; 4) open to globalism; 4) English. 5) Future orientation.
  • Other reasons for Singapore’s success: Parents take responsibility for children, and build on valuable aspects of colonial heritage.
  • For those claiming the legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc. (My note – I only repeat this tweet again here for context).
  • Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please.
  • Getting onto an airplane now and won’t get onto the wi-fi so that I can cut off those who think EVERY aspect of colonial legacy was bad.

My issues with the multitudes that crucified Helen Zille is that they totally ignored that in the field of development studies, of which I’m a masters degree (cum laude) graduate, two of the most prominent theories of development is the modernization and dependency theories. Both these have their strong and weak points but are nevertheless accepted in academia as still valid (although mainly out of favour) theories of development that add value to the age-old questions of how desirable change in society is best achieved and why certain communities are in general more developed, and therefore better off than others. If her critics took some time out before shouting out ‘unrepentant closet racist colonialist’ to do some research they would have found the Helen Zille’s series of tweets lies at the heart of the debate of which of the modernization or dependency theories best answers these vexing questions.

For most African nationalist and those that criticised Helen Zille, they have an almost blind faith that the colonialists are to be blamed for all Africa’s misfortunes and are therefore in full support of the dependency theory of development unfortunately to the extent that anybody that questions it in any way, is called out as a heretic as Helen Zille found out.

Dependency theory is the notion that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former. It is a central contention of dependency theory that poor states are impoverished and rich ones enriched by the way poor states are integrated into the “world system”.

Dependency theory states that poor nations provide natural resources and cheap labour for developed nations, without which the developed nations could not have the standard of living which they enjoy. When underdeveloped countries try to remove the core’s influence, the developed countries hinder their attempts to keep control. This means that poverty of developing nations is not the result of the disintegration of these countries in the world system, but because of the way in which they are integrated into this system.

The dependency theory arose as a reaction to modernization theory, an earlier theory of development which held that all societies progress through similar stages of development, that today’s underdeveloped areas are thus in a similar situation to that of today’s developed areas at some time in the past, and that, therefore, the task of helping the underdeveloped areas out of poverty is to accelerate them along this supposed common path of development, by various means such as investment, technology transfers, and closer integration into the world market.

Both theories have close historical links to colonialism. The dependency theory argues that the underdevelopment of poor nations in the Third World is solely derived from systematic imperial and colonial exploitation. The modernization theory, on the other hand, argues that colonialism aided the Third World to modernize their institutions of governance, infrastructure, and society.

These two main theories of development have been severely critiqued over the last five decades mainly in that both theories make the mistake of treating lesser-developed communities as homogeneous (i.e. as having the same characteristics). They fail to understand that value systems and institutions tend to be culture-specific. For example, Ethiopia and Somalia may be neighbouring lesser-developed communities but their cultures are quite different from one another and may each, therefore, require different development programmes.

Both theories also make the mistake of treating capitalist societies as homogeneous and consequently fail to acknowledge that there are different types of capitalism and reactions to it (for example, American capitalism based upon Fordism tends to have a different character to Japanese capitalism which tends to be more paternalistic). Both theories are also often accused of being over-deterministic in that they make little attempt to explore the interpretations of people in the lesser developed communities (failing to acknowledge that people in lesser developed countries might rationally choose to take a capitalist path, might rationally choose to hang on to their own culture or might rationally choose to combine elements of capitalism and their own cultures – as in Japan).

The main issue for me with these theories is that they both simplistically present the relationship between lesser development communities and the West in terms of conflict or ‘us versus them’, totally ignoring any other determinants of development. For example, modernization theory only sees lesser development communities such as ours as ‘backward’ societies that ‘need’ the West’s help to develop, whilst dependency theory only sees ‘us’ being exploited by ‘them’ for cheap labour and raw materials.

Because of the above shortcomings, both theories have largely fallen out of favour and have been replaced by theories that focus on sustainable and human development. Ironic then that those that so freely criticised Helen Zille, currently still hold on so dearly to the out of favour dependency theory, that they will call those that dare to questions its wisdom ‘unrepentant closet colonial racists’.

Helen Zille’s series of tweets asks some critical questions that sit squarely within the decade-long debate between the proponents of the dependency versus modernization theories without herself arguing that the one theory is 100% right and the other 100% wrong. She inter alia asked how Singapore given its history of colonial and oppression during World War 2 managed to overcome the negative effects of dependency to become a successful state and offers some suggestions on why she thinks this might have happened.  She then poses the valid question namely if they could do it why not Africa, in other words what can our continent perhaps learn from them and lastly reminded us that colonialism did not only have negative effects (for further illustration if you tell the absolutely cricket-mad Indian citizens that they have to forego the game because it’s part of the legacy of colonialism, which it is, they will politely tell you to take a hike!).

Lelouch Giard in his piece “Helen Zille: How politically correct must we be?” rightly puts her series of tweets into proper perspective:

“Not once did Zille say that colonialism was not negative. She did point out that it is more complex than just ‘all bad’ (as is often the case with a situation calling for a moral judgment). She was not defending or justifying colonialism, she was looking at it from an angle that is often ignored (an angle that exists and is quite valid).”

I personally take my hat off to Helen Zille in that, unlike most other politicians who hide behind populist slogans and calling serious issues facing our citizens ‘funny democracy’, she is willing to open herself up freely for important debates that we need as a society to ensure that one singular version of the truth (the dependency theory in this instance) is not forced down our throats blindly by the political elite and their social media watchdogs and those that are too scared to question these many truths in the name if being politically correct. Say what you want about Helen Zille or call her names to wits end but if you want to be taken seriously by her then you better take heed of what Gwen Ngwenya said about Helen Zille on Facebook namely that she “… will expect you to fight to be right through the merit of your argument and not the colour of your skin”.