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Exorcising Apartheid

Coen van Wyk

Posted on April 28, 2018 05:40

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While appearances and voting rights may have changed, many South Africans are still in the hands of officials who decide on property rights, housing and lifestyle for people without being answerable to them.

Apartheid died with the first free elections of 1994, but its legacy lives on.
 
Apartheid officials, elected by a white electorate, were empowered to place tribal lands in trust under appointed, trusted chiefs and kings. Black people were considered temporary residents in the cities. They were expected to want to return to their origins as kings and chiefs. Nobody bothered asking them if they wanted to, officials took decisions for them, ignoring the needs of industry and the growing waiting list for the few homes available in the cities.
 
‘Black spots’, tribal settlements in what had become ‘white’ South Africa were removed, their people receiving a token compensation and land in tribal trust areas, again without consultation.
 
Almost 25 years later the ghost still wanders. A land reform program under the new Constitution was put in the hands of officialdom. And it has failed. Miserably. Lack of security of tenure complicates raising of capital. Officials allocate land on other grounds than the ability to prosper. Most of the recipients of compensation for erstwhile wrongs prefer cash to land. Most of them prefer to believe in the old English saying: ‘City air makes men free’. And the erstwhile ‘homelands’ or tribal trust areas have high unemployment, as feudal practices favor the status quo. Capital value lacked in the land remains inaccessible under tribal trust rules. Women especially are vulnerable to mistreatment and denial of the right to own land.

 

Pride in self-grown cabbages. Owning land encourages development

Political corporations squabble for careers, positions where they can cream off kickbacks, officials act without being called to answer for their actions, and go largely unpunished for their misdeeds.
 
Around the cities of South Africa, shantytowns proliferate. Housing waiting lists, administered by officials, are longer than they were in Apartheid times, and housing when provided are the same ‘matchbox’ designs known as 51/9 houses under Apartheid. Government seems to still follow the old policy that people should stay in tribal areas. This despite studies and experience of other developing countries showing that it costs the State less to provide services in densely populated areas.

 

Abandoned homestead on a farm returned to communal use.

A clear break is needed. Hernando de Soto wrote about the advantages of property rights in alleviating poverty, of freeing individual creativity and productivity through a free economy. The limited democracy with indirectly elected representatives favor careerist politicians with an allegiance to Party above electorate. Government interference in the economy mirrors a failed Apartheid socialis, and is unable to draw South Africa out of meager growth. Poverty remains a problem in rural areas.

Modern farming demands capital, skills and determination.

For a brief period after 1994 President Nelson Mandela unified South Africans into a rainbow nation, and called on all to make sacrifices for the common good. Since then divisive policies and blatant ethnic favouritism has created a climate where reform is being replaced with retribution. Where the best of the youth, white and black, seek better opportunities elsewhere.
 
Can the rainbow nation be recreated? Time will tell.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on April 28, 2018 05:40

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