Black consciousness and the land question by Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, 17 March 2015, South Africa

Introduction

A Sowetan article of the 6th September 2013, states that 14% of audited land in South Africa is in the hands of the state, and 79 % is in the hands of citizens, trusts, and private companies while 7% is unregistered. Unfortunately, the report does not reveal as to how much land is owned by whites or Blacks, neither does it give details on individuals, trusts and companies.

Until an investigation is made as to how much land is owned by whites and foreigners and how the land was acquired, we are nowhere near clarity about the land question in South Africa.

Historical Events

In the nineteenth century when imperialism gained a foothold on Azania (South Africa) and the whole of Afrca, everything beautiful about our Azania was destroyed. Our people's success stories, culture, and religious practices were obliterated and European culture gained dominance.

The impact of expanding white power in southern Africa forcibly and radically, shaped the lives of Black people and finally relegated them to the Bantustans  where they became reserviours of cheap labour, with no access and ownership of any productive land. The political, economic and social institutions created by whites affected all African people, rural or urban, illiterate or educated.

In the course of establishing these institutions, land became central. For example, the South African Native Affairs Commission of 1903 - 1905 advocated for reservation of barren land for exclusive use by African. The Commission recommended that the principle of territorial segregation should become the basis of native policy in Azania.

The 1913 Land Act then became the culmination of efforts to exclude Blacks from their own land. The degree to which Black people were dispossessed of their land by whites in Azania and Africa under colonial rule, as well as during apartheid, is indeed an important point of departure.

This year (2015) marks hundred and two years after the 1913 Native Land Act, and 79% of the land is still owned by individuals, companies and trusts. The 1913 Native Land Act as we know, was later followed by the laws inacted in 1936 which set aside 7% and later 13% of agricultural land for Blacks in Azania.

Developments after 1994

Land policy after 1913 supported the growth of white commercial farmers and the accumulation of wealth by white capitalists.

When the ‘ New South Africa' was ushered in through CODESA, the land question was not resolved. The new Constitution which came as a result of the CODESA agreements, has not gone far enough to resolve the land question.

The following facts demonstrate the gravity of the problem.

Between 1994 and 1998 government brought in a legal framework for land restitution and distribution, allowing people to claim land previously owned by them.

Claims that were allowed are those dating back to 1913, and people could not claim for land that was taken away before 1913.

Government then set 30% as a target for agricultural land distribution by 2014.

By 2012, only 8 million hectors of land from 24.6million hectors identified had been transferred.

By June 2013, the department of Rural Development and Land Reform put adverts in the main national newspapers, stating their commitments to uplifting the rural poor, and indicating that they will re-open logments of claims until 2018.

Excuses from government is that the problem is with the willing seller and willing buyer principle. My own reading of the present Constitution is that it does not mention this willing seller, willing buyer principle anywhere. Section 25 of the Constitution allows expropriation of property in the public interest, and Section 25.4 (a) and( b ) states "the public interest includes the national commitment to land reform, and reforms to bring about equitable access to all South Africa's natural resources and property is not limited to land"

Section 25.5 empowers the state to "take reasonable legislative and other measures within its available resources to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable bases"

It appears to me the concept of willing seller willing buyer is a creation of the governing party, the ANC .The problem appears to be that ANC is scared of the word expropriation and it does not think that land repossession by those whose land was taken away is a matter of "public interest"

This explains why it took 19 years for the ANC to change its position on the willing seller and willing buyer principle.

Black Consciousness and the Land question

I now turn to the reasons why the Black Consciousness Movement has over the years consistently maintained that when freedom from colonial and apartheid rule is attained, land should be restored to the people of Azania. To the Black Consciousness Movement, land has always been singled out as an important dynamic basis for the development of social and human life.

In the case of Azania before colonialism, it is generally agreed that the creative relationship of rural Black people to the social environment was manifested in the process of interaction with the land. Study on historic stages of communalism and tributary social formations attest to this. Study on historic stages show the following, inter alia,about our people and nature:

Practical understanding of the laws of nature as well as the ability to invent and develop appropriate tools to control and transform their social environment,

Sound and unlimited accessability to the land and using land as a major means of production for their livelihood ,

Feeding on agricultural and healthy traditional diets.

But under the system of racism, settler colonialism, and capitalism, land which had served as the historical and material basis for social and human life, as the basic means of production and wealth, was expropriated without any compensation to the rightful landowners.

Comrade Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, was once reported as having stated that if the act of conquest meant that the conquerors can do whatever they liked with the land and its resources of the conquered, then the act of re-conquest should have the same effect.

In order to restore the land to the people, the Black Consciousness Movement believes that the conquered - conqueror relationship between Blacks and whites should not be allowed to determine the land ownership patterns in Azania (South Africa). Consequently, under the BCM "land will be holly owned and controlled by the Azanian people". Further, its use and all that accrues from it "shall be aimed at ending all forms of exploitation of one man by another"

Anybody who cares to observe the living conditions of the poor in South Africa, urban or rural, will be aware of the battle for daily survival and poverty. Even where there is some land available, the land is not developed to the extent that it can sustain the lives of the poor where they live. In fact, in many rural areas, Black people have lost the capacity to sustain themselves off the land. Many of our people are now permanent recipients of social grants.

The Black Consciousness Movement has always considered theft of our people's land as a deep-rooted injustice against the majority. Since Black Consciousness teaches us to reject and fight against all kinds of injustices, we are therefore duty bound to see to it that injustices that came as a result of land dispossession should be ended.

Secondly, Black Consciousness compels us to fight racial segregation, racism, poverty and inequalities, and as a result land ownership patterns that favour whites - thereby creating segregated ownership, poverty and inequality - should be ended at all costs.

Thirdly, the present Constitution should be changed because it safeguards the existence of these injustices with the property clause, such that within the present Constitutional framework, the majority of our people are excluded from owning land.

Fourthly, the Black Consciousness Movement wants a unitary state and the maturing of a national identity. As a result, national identity cannot be achieved with whites owning the majority of land and Blacks alienated from it. For the BCM, in order to achieve One Azania One Nation, it is important to resolve the land issue.

Fifthly, our fight against colonialism and apartheid which created Bantustans as places of oppression, poverty and unemployment, means that we are duty bound to free our people from hunger and poverty. We need to create economic activities in the rural areas in order to intergrate the rural poor into the country's economic activities.

Black Consciousness teaches us to reject all conditions that seeks to make our people foreighners in the country of their birth and reduce their basic human dignity.

Black Consciousness and Liberation

Black Consciousness seeks to destroy and eliminate all the physical and psychological effects that plunged Black people into self-hate, low self-esteem, and inferiority. The material circumstances under which Black people live still make them feel inferior and dependant on handouts from the rich.

Black Consciousness is instructive in the sense that it wants our people to define and shape their destiny, make sure that their political social and economic life is enhanced and use this to their benefit. Liberation therefore can only come with our people involvement in all spheres of their lives.

Liberation comes when we are able to create a political, social and economic framework around which the development and self actualization of all human beings is facilitated and enhanced .In order for us to develop rural areas land is vital.

Therefore in order to create an egalitarian society as envisaged by Steve Biko, we will need to develop rural areas and rural economies. For this to happen, land is vital.