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Coexistence: The South African Farmland Dilemma

October 16, 2018

 

 

Imagine a federal agent knocks on your door. A door that has opened your house to the outside since the time your great grandfather installed it. Now, imagine the federal agent telling you that another family will be living in your house, the house you worked so hard to maintain over the many years, and you have sixty days to leave or you will be forcefully evicted. You will receive no compensation for the loss of your family's long lived home. Worse yet, your neighbors’ son was murdered a few nights ago by an angry mob of South African nationalists, who want to take your land. This is the prospect faced by many white farmers in South Africa, but sources are uncertain, in disagreement, and unsure on it’s severity, - just how many South African farmers have been affected.

 

South Africa has a history of conflict between the white and black population, but since the end of apartheid, the two populations have lived together in harmony. And contrary to Donald Trump, who tweeted that he “asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.’”, the populations seem to be living relatively peacefully, as statistics for white only farm murders are not conducted, a conclusion that white only murders are happening cannot be. However,  Mike Tootill, a professional squash player and South African from Johannesburg told me, “the police are reporting farm murders as general crime but it could be more than that, it needs more investigation”, inferring that the murders are, in fact, happening, but aren't being reported properly. John Burger, an independent policing expert says, “It is true that, if you look at just farmers, it is still mostly white farmers who get attacked. But that does not mean that black farmers and black workers are not killed.” Furthermore, John went as far to say that more black workers on farms are killed than white farmers, and some years, no white workers are killed.

 

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa stated that, “South Africans are currently engaged in an intense debate over the prospect of expropriation of land without compensation as one among several measures to achieve [land] reform,”. Some believe that Ramaphosa is right, but others believe he understates the severity of the debate; “intense”, may not fully cover what white farmers are feeling. Families who have farmed land for many generations face unemployment without compensation for their hard worked fields, while black South Africans would get their African ancestral lands back without having to clear the land or nurture the fields. Tootill says that when he was younger and living in South Africa, the rule was that the government could “expropriate land with compensation from white farms to South Africans, they would ask farms how much, agree on a price, and the government would pay the price”. Many people think the old way of expropriation with compensation was morally right, and proved successful but the underlying question of whether or not money should be involved in the transaction of farms is what keeps the debate alive today. Sources differ widely on how many  land seizures have taken place, some saying zero, and others a little more, but most agree that no amendments to the South African constitution have taken place to allow for such a transaction to happen legally.

 

The future of South African farms has yet to be decided, and the seemingly endless debate continues.

 

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