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Is The Land Question A Real Issue? An Alternative Viewpoint.

Land was effectively stolen from the African natives by the European colonialists. Thus, the logical thing to do is to redistribute what was once stolen.

14/04/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 14/04/2017 03:57 SAST
Stringer/ Reuters

The issue of redistributing land to African citizens has become a focal point of domestic politics in South Africa. The idea is that ownership of land should be transferred from non-Africans, who have too much, to Africans, who have none. A difference in opinion suddenly arises amongst South Africans on, firstly, whether or not land redistribution is justified and, secondly, how to go about the process of redistribution if the former is deemed to be justified. Those in favour of land redistribution claim that land, which originally belonged to the African people, was stolen by colonialists and no compensation was ever received. The aforementioned description is accurate to the most part, however some pieces of information are being left out.

The colonialists came from a system where ownership was a major component of society. Not much was communal as each person either owned their living quarters or were subject to paying rent each month. Nevertheless, the living quarters were still essentially 'theirs'. Moreover, agricultural land was often given to members of the higher class by the royal family, as Europe was mostly feudal at the time, and the recipients of this land would then have full control and ownership of the land, although royal families in some kingdoms still retained the right to seize the land and distribute it to whomsoever they wish to.

The African people lived in a much more communal system. The entity to which most things belonged was the village or chief. Anyone who needed a hut simply built one with materials provided to them by the village. Land was considered to belong to everyone and no special permission had to be received if a shepherd wanted his cows to graze on a large open space that they did not normally graze upon. When the colonialists arrived, they were not privy to the fact that land was communal so they did what their society taught them to do; claim ownership over something and protect it with your gun. The act of "claiming ownership" of land which was never previously owned, but used by the African people at the time, is tantamount to stealing land from the African people.

Those against land redistribution claim that we have been living in a democratic, essentially capitalist, society for two and a half decades and therefore people who want land should simply work hard to earn it. This view is typical of a group who, for decades, enjoyed economic, social, and political authority over the majority of citizens. We, as South Africans, need to recognise, and correct, the injustices of the past in order to pave a way towards an equal society. Failure to do so will simply lead to a further deepening of a social divide which will still have racial characteristics attached to it. Thus, land was effectively stolen from the African natives by the European colonialists. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to redistribute what was once stolen.

A far more effective way, when compared to the current system, to redistribute land has been discussed throughout society. Only agricultural land or extremely large pieces of land should be subjected to redistribution. Those non-Africans who have more land than necessary should specify which piece of land is their primary land. All secondary pieces of land should be purchased by government at 75 percent of an agreed upon market value. Africans who receive land should only be considered if they can prove their South African heritage, otherwise land could be redistributed to those from whom land was never taken from originally. Furthermore, the recipients of the land should be adequately trained in the methods of agriculture. Failure to achieve this will lead to a piece of land which might have previously been productive become a wasteland.

A portion of the current system which should be done away with is the choice between land or financial compensation. This choice is counterproductive as being able to productively and efficiently work the land will provide a continuous flow of income, which will increase equality and achieve the goals of land redistribution - to improve equality, whilst a once-off financial compensation only provides temporary relief to the inequality faced by millions of Africans. This new process of redistributing land will help to improve the vast inequality we face as a nation.

We, as a unified nation, need to be able to correct the wrongs of the past and turn them into methods to improve our country. Land redistribution is not only a real issue, it's one of the most important issues we face as a society. We need to impose more pressure upon our elected representatives to push this process forwards. We can only begin to move forwards if we cease constantly looking back, and the only way to cease constantly looking back is to have nothing to look back upon.