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June 06, 2012

South Africa's ruling party's youth league threatens Zimbabwe-style 'land re-grabs'

If you want to cause shock, anger, loathing and trepidation to South Africa's commercial farmers, just say the words 'Zimbabwe land reform.' You will get an emotional earful about it.

South Africa is eager to reassure its farmers and everybody else that it will not go the way of  'brutal-dictator-Mugabe's-land-grab-from-white-farmers-to-his-cronies-which-turned-Zimbabwe-from-regional-breadbasket-to-basket case.'

But the young hotheads in the Youth League of South Africa's ruling Africa National Congress have nevertheless caused a lot of consternation by sometimes expressing admiration for Zimbabwe's controversial land reform, in which land was 'grabbed' without compensation from white farmers. One of several big elephants in the room about land in southern Africa is that it most often ended up in the white farmers hands by virtue of convoluted colonial land grabs from Africans, setting up in motion the present desirability for re-grabs amongst people like the ANCYL, for whom change in favor of the black majority since the end of apartheid in 1994 has been too slow.

ANCYL deputy president Ronald Lamola said, "It was only after a forceful mass action by the people of Zimbabwe that Zanu PF (Robert Mugabe's party) ended up owning up to that role.... It looks like we are going to have that here.”

Lamola said it was expected that white South Africans and investors would flee the country when "militant and aggressive" legislation was implemented. "When the land grab process was starting in Zimbabwe, people ran away," he said. "They are going to leave."

Lamola said that when economic transformation took place in South Africa, some people would experience pain.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim said the biggest mistake ever made after the 1994 elections was section 25 of the Constitution (property rights). He said it had served only to protect the wealth of the whites. "Those who control the economy are seriously protected by that section," he said.

He said white capitalists were now relaxed and happy after the expulsion from the ANC of former ANCYL president Julius Malema. "Who is celebrating [Malema's expulsion]? The white people who own this
country," he said.

The immediate controversy around the land reform/land grab (take your pick according to your bias) in Zimbabwe has died down, though still leaving the hard question of how to build a new system of commercial agriculture. Because the apartheid-era repression in South Africa was longer and far more vicious than that experienced in colonial Rhodesia, South Africa currently sits on a much bigger potential powder keg of unresolved land issues than Zimbabwe did/does.

Hopefully South Africa can somehow resolve them without an explosion.

African Agriculture

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