South Africa: Tomorrow’s Zimbabwe
White South African farmers will be removed from their land after a landslide vote in parliament.
The country’s constitution is now likely to be amended to allow for the confiscation of white-owned land without compensation, following a motion brought by radical Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema.
It passed by 241 votes for to 83 against after a vote on Tuesday, and the policy was a key factor in new president Cyril Ramaphosa’s platform after he took over from Jacob Zuma in February.
Mr Malema said the time for ‘reconciliation is over’. ‘Now is the time for justice,’ News24 reported.
Mr Malema has a long-standing commitment to land confiscation without compensation. In 2016 he told his supporters he was ‘not calling for the slaughter of white people – at least for now’.
If you’re a white South African, the handwriting is on the wall.
Malema further adds that the land expropriated by the state will not be redistributed to black owners, but will be owned by … the state.
The post-apartheid constitution prohibits this kind of thing, but the ANC and other parties now want to amend the constitution. According to this South African news analysis, there are some bureaucratic hurdles that would have to be cleared, but the black parties have the votes.
There can be no doubt that land reform in South Africa must happen. Look at history.
But you should also look at the history of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, who took over in 1980 after a civil war ended white minority rule. Samantha Power wrote in The Atlantic:
Zimbabwe, one of southern Africa’s most prosperous countries, held great promise. Its Victoria Falls was one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its gushing Zambezi River boasted wildlife and pulsing rapids. Its lush soil was the envy of a continent. And, though landlocked, the country had modernized sensibly: it had a network of paved roads, four airports, and, thanks to Mugabe’s leadership, a rigorous and inclusive education system. Mugabe knew that whites drove the economy, and he was pragmatic. “Good old Bob,” as white farmers quickly came to call him, kept his shoes and socks on, and urged reconciliation: “An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or black against white,” he said on the eve of independence. In a cordial meeting with [white leader Ian] Smith, Mugabe acknowledged that he had inherited the “jewel of Africa,” and he vowed to keep it that way.
The country’s economy in 1997 was the fastest growing in all of Africa; now it is the fastest shrinking. A onetime net exporter of maize, cotton, beef, tobacco, roses, and sugarcane now exports only its educated professionals, who are fleeing by the tens of thousands. Although Zimbabwe has some of the richest farmland in Africa, children with distended bellies have begun arriving at school looking like miniature pregnant women.
How could the breadbasket of Africa have deteriorated so quickly into the continent’s basket case? The answer is Robert Mugabe, now seventy-nine, who by his actions has compiled something of a “how-to” manual for national destruction. Although many of his methods have been applied elsewhere, taken as a whole his ten-step approach is more radical and more comprehensive than that of other despots. The Zimbabwe case offers some important insights. It illustrates the prime importance of accountability as an antidote to idiocy and excess. It highlights the lasting effects of decolonization—limited Western influence on the continent and a reluctance by African leaders to criticize their own. And it offers a warning about how much damage one man can do, very quickly.
In 2000, about 4,000 large-scale commercial farmers owned some 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s arable land. Nearly two thirds of these farmers had bought their farms after independence, and thus held titles issued not by Ian Smith or the British colonial regime but by the Mugabe government. Mugabe had long pledged land reform as a way of redistributing farmland to black peasants and dismantling what many saw as the country’s “mini-Rhodesias.” But he had delayed action for two decades, generally taking farms only on a “willing seller, willing buyer” basis.
Mugabe decided on what he called “fast-track land reform” only in February of 2000, after he got shocking results in a constitutional referendum: though he controlled the media, the schools, the police, and the army, voters rejected a constitution he put forth to increase his power even further. A new movement was afoot in Zimbabwe: the Movement for Democratic Change—a coalition of civic groups, labor unions, constitutional reformers, and heretofore marginal opposition parties. Mugabe blamed the whites and their farm workers (who, although they together made up only 15 percent of the electorate, were enough to tip the scales) for the growth of the MDC—and for his humiliating rebuff.
So he played the race card and the land card. “If white settlers just took the land from us without paying for it,” the President declared, “we can, in a similar way, just take it from them without paying for it.” In 1896 Africans had suffered huge casualties in an eighteen-month rebellion against British pioneers known as the chimurenga, or “liberation war.” The war that brought Zimbabwean blacks self-rule was known as the second chimurenga. In the immediate aftermath of his referendum defeat Mugabe announced a third chimurenga, invoking a valiant history to animate a violent, country-wide land grab.
Generally the farms have not been given to black farm managers or farm workers. Indeed, because of their association with the opposition, more than a million farm workers and their dependents have been displaced, and they are now at grave risk of starvation. In fact, the beneficiaries of the land seizures are, with few exceptions, ruling-party officials and friends of the President’s. Although Mugabe’s people seem to view the possession of farms as a sign of status (the Minister of Home Affairs has five; the Minister of Information has three; Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and scores of influential party members and their relatives have two each), these elites don’t have the experience, the equipment, or, apparently, the desire to run them. About 130,000 formerly landless peasants helped the ruling elites to take over the farms, but now that the dirty work is done, many of them are themselves being expelled.
The drop-off in agricultural production is staggering. Maize farming, which yielded more than 1.5 million tons annually before 2000, is this year expected to generate just 500,000 tons. Wheat production, which stood at 309,000 tons in 2000, will hover at 27,000 tons this year. Tobacco production, too, which at 265,000 tons accounted for nearly a third of the total foreign-currency earnings in 2000, has tumbled, to about 66,000 tons in 2003.
This history is about to be replayed in South Africa. Whites have been leaving the country for some time now, worried about crime and instability. It has hurt the country’s economic prospects:
Waldorf said her Cape Town-based agency has also seen an increase in those wanting to leave, particularly to Australia, Canada, the UK, Ireland and the US.
“There is certainly an increase in the number of queries we receive as each month goes by, but not all candidates qualify to go overseas and need to find jobs first. We are also finding that it is not only white people wanting to emigrate, we are increasingly getting queries from clients that are black, coloured and Indian.”
She also said those who were leaving were skilled professionals, tradespeople, entrepreneurs and experienced corporate employees.
“We are quickly losing all our skilled workers. One option for South Africa is to employ a foreign workforce to continue growing our economy and we all know how many South Africans feel about that,” Waldorf said.
Skilled professionals and experienced farmers: the kind of people South Africa needs. Zimbabwe is their future, which is to say, they have no future at all. And if Julius Malema has his way, the white ones may not have their heads either.