Athambile Masola
Athambile Masola

Whose land is it anyway?

It’s no secret, 100 years later and we are still living with the effects of the 1913 Land Act. While watching the news clip with President Jacob Zuma opening yet another exhibition “commemorating” the Land Act, the idea of marking the dispossession of land an occasion to be commemorated by exhibitions makes me wonder about the value of this debate. When we commemorate we “mark or celebrate (an event or person) by doing or producing something”. There’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to the Land Act. Nothing has been produced except isolated incidences of people receiving financial compensation for their loss of land and dignity during apartheid.

No doubt the land question is a political one and a complex issue that seems to be at a deadlock unless radical steps are taken. I’m not going to consider how far government has gone in achieving the goals ensuring redress in this matter nor am I going to make any suggestions about how to speed up the process of ensuring a redress in land. The main discourse in this matter has been related to “political will”. What does this mean? That government should take tips from Robert Mugabe? Or beef up on the policy of compensation that has already begun? People are opting for monetary compensation instead of demanding land back from government. Have we considered why this is the case? Why are people settling for money when they can get back land they can cultivate and reap profits from? We had two cases of land claims in my family and people chose to stay in the same four-roomed house and accept financial compensation rather than insist on getting land back. What does the money symbolise? Is it supposed to repair the loss suffered when removals were done decades and centuries ago or is it to repair the humiliation suffered by real people and the implications can be felt many years later?

When the land issue is debated, swart gevaar creeps in. Those who oppose land redistribution fear that the blacks will one day get tired of living in the township and demand back the farmlands that have been judiciously cultivated by custodian white farmers. Or blacks will demand their rightful place in the suburbs. This highlights another complexity to this issue: whose land is being redistributed? Abelungu zange bafike nomhlaba ngoku babefika ngenqanawa zabo, bayintoni kulo mhlaba? These are mother’s words when the issue of land redistribution comes up: white people didn’t have land when they arrived here coming by ship, what are they to our land? Historically, we understand that land belongs to indigenous people, but those who conquer grow to see themselves as part of that land and therefore it becomes theirs as well. The irony of the land issue is that the protests that happen across informal settlements and townships seem to be divorced from the politics of land in this country. Townships were created as a result of apartheid legislation, but there’s been no focus on what that means in a democratic South Africa. Instead people are evicted time and time again or protest about a lack of sanitation. Those who live in townships seem resigned to fighting to stay in a place that was created by apartheid legislation rather than making their issues central to the land question in this country.

When we talk about land redistribution and the lack of political will in this matter we tend to forget about rural development. Where people are protesting against lack of decent sanitation in Cape Town, they highlight the challenges of land where people could live a decent life. But how is this decent life to be achieved when people live in places that are not habitable as we’ve seen some townships become? I run the risk of propagating the homeland system, but what does urbanisation and the deadlock in the land claims mean for rural development? Provinces such as the Eastern Cape have plenty of unused land but the lack of infrastructure and poor governance make opportunities for development untenable.

People aren’t happy with the conditions in townships and people aren’t happy with the development in rural areas and people are unhappy about the lack of political will in land redistribution. What do these misgivings have in common? Land and a discomfort in communities. We are living in a country where homes are vulnerable because land is contested because we still don’t want to answer the question: “Whose land is it anyway?”

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  • 66 Responses to “Whose land is it anyway?”

    1. Una #


      The people who are described in records of ancient times described the people who had an impressive knowledge of science, music and art as black as ink. These are the people that came from India where are their remnants in India? Dont tell me about the mixed African Indians. There is more for later, the proof of knowledge of mathematics etc.

      July 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm
    2. Una

      I have already explained that I have no record of the Nilotic Tribes,like Obama’s Luo and the Nubians, who are the really Black Blacks of Africa.

      I have records of the Bantu of Southern Africa and Polynesia who are Brown Blacks.

      My interest is in South Africa and Southern Africa.

      July 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm
    3. Una

      I don’t know where you get your Jan Van Riebeeck information from – can you quote the source? Here is a quotation for you, with the source quoted:

      “Polynesians are of the same Asian stock…and most islands speak the same Malay-Micronesian language…A great canoe culture emerged…canoes capable of holding a hundred people……there was a great migration settle New Zealand …Here there had been an original Aboriginal popultion which was soon swamped…

      Some islands, including the Tahitian and Hawaiian clusters had a concept of a benign supreme being (Io Ora and a devil (Whiro); the mytha associated with them appear to have arcane souces on the Asian homeland…Io Ora for example was known as Iao on Hawaian, a word found on a Phoenician coin of 350BC…the language of the Maoris was still very similar in some words to Tahitian…..

      A steady flow of settlers …was pushing in and along from the Sydney coastline…the vast space that the aborigines were now losing…both they and the Polynesians had originated prehistorically from Asia……’the whole aboriginal stock may be exterminated (like the American Indian) by the progress’…”

      “On the Missioary Trail” by Tom Hiney (1999)

      July 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm
    4. Una

      Sorry for the typo -“On The Missionary Trail” by Tom Hiney (1999)

      July 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm
    5. Una #


      In your previous post you wrote that the Khoi and the San were the original Africans now you have changed your tune, you reveal information that they came from India including what you call the Bantu. Now the Khoi and San are no longer the original Africans according to your new version it is the original black blacks. It is really a mamoth task to debate with you. You are thumb sucking most of the time. In some history books including a book written by Noel Mostert : The Frontier, amaXhosa are said to have emigrated from central Africa not Southern Africa. They wre trading mostly in iron. This applies to all the Nguni tribes and others. The Khoi in particular have aboriginal features and that could have occurred as a result of mixing with Asians and Chinese who came to Africa. They cannot all come from outside Africa. The language that is spoken by Ngunis here in SA can be traced to as far as the Nubian Empire. The question of language if analysed can reveal a lot. The analysis that the writer of your source relied on features which brought about the seperation of Africans into Kaffirs / Bantu, Hottentot, Bushman (Khoi & San). This system of classification is attributrd to an 18th century scientist, Karl Linneys which was used for categorising earth plants. The use of this method dividing endigenous Africans into enclaves for purposes of colonization is absolutely audacious. This was written in Jan Van Riebeeck’s diary according to research paper published in…

      July 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm
    6. Una #


      The research paper was published in the Cape Times – 23 February 2012

      July 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    7. Una #


      My apologies – The name of the scientist is Karl Linneus not Linneys

      July 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm
    8. Una #


      The last part of my posting is pathetic. It is badly written I was concetrating more on preserving space than writing comprehensively. The analysis of the source you have cited has relied mainly on features and not language. I find that very irregular considering that the systen used was meant for categorising earth plants.

      July 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm
    9. Una

      The San(Bushman) hunter gatherers and Khoi sheepherders ARE the original Africans, and the Khoi themselves devolved from the San, and it was a woman of the San DNA which migrated out of Africa

      The Bantu of Southern Africa and the Polynesians of the Pacific come from coastal Asia- proved by language, culture, and anthropology, and archeology.

      I admit that the Nilotic tribes, who are neither San, Khoi nor Bantu are unknown as to source, at least to me – I have read no scientific analysis in any of the books I have read. If you know of any books on Nilotic DNA or language analysis please give me the reference,but the Nilotic tribes never lived in South Africa or Southern Africa.

      I can’t see where either India or plant classifications come into it.

      July 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm
    10. Una

      Asking me to explain the history of the Nilotic tribes is like asking an Italian to explain the Vikings of Norway- they are colonisers in the North.

      To try and simplify the picture. Humans have been migrating for at least 60,000 years. There have been many waves of migrations out of Asia. The Pacific Polynesian migration is about 1000-2000 years ago. The migration into Africa from Asia by the Bantu tribes appears to have been about 2000 years earlier. The earliest Asian migration recorded that I know of is the migration of Aborigines into Australia and New Zealand about 60,000 years ago.

      There appears to have been only one migration out of Africa, about 50,000 years ago, and then the Sahara Desert formed and cut off Sub Saharan Africa – except to Arabs, Indians and Chinese on the East Coast of Africa.

      The only corridor to Mediterranean Africa was through Ethiopia after the Sahara desert formed. The Nilotic tribes appears to be a migration from North Western Asia into Africa through that corridor, which is also most likely the route the Queen of Sheba took to visit King Solomon.

      Obama got a shock when he found out that his tribe were colonisers themselves, having colonised the local Bantu tribes. But the local Bantu would have been colonisers of the San themselves.

      July 4, 2013 at 5:58 am
    11. Una

      South Africa, Africa and the Developing World must throw off the myths of both the American and Chinese Empires. The migrations from coastal Asia to Polynesia about 2000 years ago, and to Africa about 4000 years ago, were most likely caused by 2 main factors:

      1. Climate Change – making the American claim that the climate has been stable for 12,000 years to be nonsense.

      2. The rise of the Chinese Empire of the Han migrating North – which means Africa and Polynesian have as much claim as China to the China Seas and Taiwan (where there are still 12 tribes who have been there for about 7000 years with similar cultures to both Polynesia and Bantu Africa). Personally I think all seas and oceans should be under the United Nations.

      Both the Chinese Empire and the American Empire have made up mythical histories for their people.

      July 4, 2013 at 7:22 am
    12. Una #


      Wow!!! all this nonsense you are coming up with is rubbished by the remnants of the so called myths. The honouring of the black heads in Europe, was even shown on Amazing Race, Prime time TV, black faces on European Coats of Arms, Art works in Asia that depict Africans as honourable people. You can come up with your myths but even in the present day these proofs are there for all to see except you and your ilk ofcourse.

      Southern Africans have never come from India. Your sources are confusing the travels of Africans to Asia and the Americas as if they came from there. Where are the original people in India that have the following features? big or flat nose, thick lips, coarse hair. Where are they situated.These features are common place from the southern tip of Africa to the top, namely Sudan. Not only features our cultural practises are similar as well as language and dietry preferances. Please do not come here with myths

      July 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm
    13. Una – where did I mention India? I suspect, because India was already populated, the Asians from Borneo and thereabout just coastal hugged their canoes around India until they reached Africa, where the people had inferior weapons to theirs.

      In the whole of history is has always been superior weapons and/or tactics which have won.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:34 am
    14. Yaj #

      The land belongs ultimately to all the people.( the citizens). To give this practical meaning and speed up the redistribution of hoarded land we need a LAND TAX as a REPLACEMENT for INCOME tax and VAT.

      see for more information.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm
    15. I do consider all the ideas you have offered for your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too quick for starters. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

      July 19, 2013 at 3:42 am
    16. I’M FAMOUS..or in trouble..Hi! THANKS for using my quote..I wore U done Mr.”Roldo and Readers”..MAY have JUST given You a quote line there Mr.B….I HOPE I AM wrong in THIS assumption above or in other observations I have made…HOPEFULLY FOR ALL of us I am wrong..I TRY and be fair,give benefit of doubt and all that but…WE are a big city w/enough or lot of strength and if used right way…thou WE are smaller,OLDER,more spread out and experienced Great Recession (TO tell You the truth considering WHA experienced before I TRULY believe 1979 on was the REAL turning point for this area which BY ITSELF is a tome to write but I will spare us all that…MAYBE all that was invetiable and MAYBE FINALLY led to some good in a roundabout bizarre way…aka Barack,ObamaCare,etc. JUST a H of a road to get there and usually the interests have a way of coopting everything…TIME will tell on MedMart…of all the projects I PERSONALLY think’ makes sense or MOST sense but politically it is a BLANK to say or peddle that idea’ in that sense of the word…)

      August 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

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