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South Africa must handle land expropriations with care



For a very long time now, the militant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of South Africa has advocated for and called for what they called Radical Economic Transformation, a concept that has divided opinion among many South Africans due to the phrase’s ambiguity.
This phrase, at some stage sounded like it was only an empty phrase whose benefit was as regards its potential at swaying especially poor black people’s votes to whichever party that used it ‘radically’.

The ANC later adopted it when the factions within the party, which were led by those who were being touted to lead the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were established along the lines of those who claimed to support that same Radical Economic Transformation and those who were tagged White Monopoly Capital (yet another ambiguous phrase).

Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First movement, which leaned a lot on the Radical Economic Transformation side, seemed to campaign a lot using that same phrase. His was certainly only meant to add to the noise in support of the Zuma camp. Now that Ramaphosa has since been elected, the mantra and the noise around it have to some extent dissipated.

It is pretty clear now that the EFF, which is one of the newest kids on the block, will be renowned for setting the national agenda for the republic. This Radical Economic Transformation seems to carry with it the promise of a state-led economic growth and development as against the private sector.
This is what the EFF has always stood for. It seemingly looks to be on a quest to adopt policies that can be said to be pro-poor. It also seems to convey the message of a need to transfer ownership of the economy and land to the indigenous black people.

Julius Malema just knows what black people want to hear. The Parliament of the Union of South Africa had in 1913 passed the Native Land Act.
This piece of legislation, whose impact was to segregate residential areas into land which was supposed to be occupied by whites and that occupied by black people, left the Africans with ownership of only seven percent of the total arable land, with whites, who constituted only less than 20 percent of the population, being left with the rest of the fertile land.

This injustice had to be reversed. Expropriation of land without compensation, together with the call on nationalisation of mines and other strategic institutions such as the Reserve Bank of South Africa were and still are at the top of the EFF’s priority list.
Recently, the South African parliament voted 241 to 83 in favour of amending the country’s constitution. This will give way to confiscation without compensation of land owned by white people for redistribution as restitution for the injustice meted out against black people in the past.

A number of opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance; COPE and the Freedom Front Plus had opposed this motion on the grounds that it may adversely impact on agricultural production and might scare off investors.
Mosiuoa Lekota of COPE, had asked President Ramaphosa a number of pertinent questions relating to this motion.

“Whose land are you going to take? And who will decide on who gets the land?” These are just some of the questions he asked. These are important questions considering that this will not be the first time an African country goes through this process in an attempt to right the wrongs of the past.
Zimbabwe had embarked on the same journey, having been colonised by the British and their land taken away from them and given to whites.
After a long guerilla warfare against the white minority rule in the then Rhodesia, which saw hundreds of deaths of the white settlers and a decline in agricultural production, talks to end the war were held at the Lancaster House in London between the white settlers and the ZANU and the ZAPU under the leadership of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo.

The British government was mediating. Just as the black South Africans are proposing today, Mugabe and Nkomo’s stance and pre-condition talks could be held, was only on confiscation of land without compensation.  On the flip side, the difference between the South African case and the Zimbabwean case in the past has to do with the fact that with the latter, the British government and the white settlers made concessions and the British government agreed that they would facilitate land redistribution both technically and financially.

With that, Mugabe and Nkomo agreed to some demands from the settlers. In the South African case, there were neither promises nor concessions by whites, only land grabs by whites. With time, the British government reneged on their promise to support land redistribution efforts in Zimbabwe. The result was a knee jerk reaction by Mugabe with the infamous Fast Track Land Reform Programme through which land was forcibly confiscated from the white farmers with the intention of reallocating it to black people.

The west did not approve of this a bit. Sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe and as they say, the rest is history. The South African government has done a great job in terms of restoring confidence in the economy to the investors.
Ramaphosa has even met with Moody’s and explained how he intends to put South Africa on a sustainable economic growth path. This land confiscation has the potential to undo these positive strides, especially if indeed no compensation is paid out.

The president has moved to assure the world that the land redistribution will be executed prudently in a manner that will not adversely impact on agricultural production. Notwithstanding, one can posit that some of the challenges which were encountered in Zimbabwe will almost certainly be felt in South Africa, maybe only by a lesser scale.

These challenges include the likelihood that black people may take up the land, which to them would be just like a windfall even though most would be lacking in terms of skills and technical know-how to manage and successfully grow on this land.
The past ten or so years have shown that South Africa has a serious problem with rampant corruption exercised mainly by those at the helm. The authorities would need to put checks on every stage of this redistribution process to prevent politicians and wealthy people in that country from claiming such lands simply because they can.
There were allegations of this same practice regarding allocation of RDP houses. Wealthy individuals had these houses built for them, and then they would rent them out to the poor people willing to stay in such houses.
It was in 1913 and subsequent years when people were removed from their land, not the 90’s. The proximity in terms of time will render this exercise very difficult to execute. As Mosiuoa Lekota has enquired, one wonders how the true and legitimate claimants will be determined, and what happens to land that has already been developed.

It may not necessarily be a tough ask to determine which land was taken away, but to correctly be able to restore such land to rightful owners generations later, will be a serious challenge.

There is also an issue of those black farm workers who for generations have been working on a particular piece of land. Some of them do not have a home away from the farm. The white farmer would have allocated such workers dwellings which serve as their home and these would be the only homes their children get to know.

Will they be allowed to lodge a legitimate claim on these pieces of land? Whatever the government of South Africa will decide to do, this mammoth task needs very careful consideration lest the government victimises some members of the society when they appease the others.
The land reforms and redistributions in Zimbabwe were essential, but they were held in a dramatic and hasty way that even if sanctions were not imposed on Zimbabwe, the agricultural sector was almost certainly going to take a serious hit.

Using the Zimbabwe case as some form of reference, it means therefore that South Africa has a golden opportunity presented to them in a platter to avoid some of the mistakes that were committed by their neigbour.

One can only hope that the ANC will not feel pressured by the upcoming 2019 elections, and look to swiftly implement these reforms in a quest to score political points in the run up to the elections. This would have serious repercussions which would economically send that country 40 years back.

By Mosito Ntema

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We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges



For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

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Call that a muffin?



In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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Lessons from Israel: Part 3



I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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