Colonialism and its effects still create major issues in the world today, the most recent to grab the headlines has been South Africa’s ‘Land Issue’.
The Land Issue centres itself in a racial and political dispute. Essentially, it is about the unfair share of land between South Africa’s white populous and its black populous. Roughly about 80 per cent of South Africa’s population are people of colour, yet they hold only 13 per cent of the land.
But why do the majority of South Africa’s population feel so indignant about not holding the majority of the wealth? After all, in capitalist countries around the world, the distribution of wealth follows a similar story.
Clearly, the crux of the matter here is one of race which goes deeper, in my opinion, than that of just skin colour, but more to the core of one’s history and identity. The fact that South Africa’s history, and Africa as a whole, has been fully obliterated, churned up and pushed out into a semi-European mould has led to an undeniable feeling of victimisation and a burning desire for validation amongst South Africa’s black population. The effects of slavery, colonialism and apartheid have not left the black populous feeling fragile and out in the cold, but instead reignited a residing sense of entitlement to the land which should be theirs and only theirs, as it was prior to Europe’s colonisation. Is this feeling justified?
Present-day Western and European involvement in Africa as a whole is one of economic and military dominance following a highly exploitative nature. The possibility of commodity specification reoccurs through China’s expansion, making Africa provide 35 per cent of its oil; and the United States’ military involvement through AFRICOM, on which its ‘humanitarian’ mission spouts a similar rhetoric as the colonialists’ ‘civilising’ mission once did, is yet another example.
So you can see the line of thought: the West is still exploiting Africa for its own gain, providing yet another reason for the black populous to place blame of suffering on anything and anyone associated with the West and therefore retaliate.
Zanele Lwana, the leader of Black First Land First, stated, ‘Our people have waited for so long … We are going to get everything that you owe, it’s ours.’ By ‘our’ Zanele Lwana is automatically excluding any South African that is of European descent, deeming a South African citizen to be only a person of colour, irreducible to any other ethnic differentiation. The country’s horrific past sufferings have clearly created a confused discourse and identity on what it means to be African and it is now having a serious impact on societal relations.
To address the land issue, the African National Congress is willing to change the laws of the country that are inadequate to tackle the current problem, by removing land from the white farmers and sharing it more equally. Sounds fair, right? But they are planning to do this without compensation.
Again, the sense of residing entitlement comes into play here. Yes, Europeans did steal land from Africa and exploit it for their own gain. And yes, the West is still playing an exploitative, imperial role in Africa’s economy which needs to be addressed and changed. But does this warrant racial murder of South Africa’s white citizens? Does this warrant white farmers being forced to give up land that has been in their family for generations? Race relations in South Africa are clearly problematic and complex, yet to put it simply, a tit for tat situation cannot be the answer.
In modern-day South Africa, the colour of your skin should not be an entitlement to a monopoly on land and wealth, white or black. The solution to the racial tensions cannot be the switch in favour of one ethnicity to another. There needs to be serious political and societal direction in shaping a national identity that includes the relatively ‘new’ variations of ethnicities. The tragedies of the past must be accounted for, not repeated.