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This land is my land. This land is your land.

Posted on September 9, 2011
One of the most significant events in South Africa's history took place in 1913. The proclamation of the Land Act of 1913 saw persons of colour in a precarious position; they were not legally enslaved but held hostages on the land. Not to own it, but to toil it.

This act sanctioned the lawful obstruction of black, Indian and coloured people's formerly limited freedom of movement. It made the so-called emancipation of slaves, from 1834 to 1838, a farce. The act authorised the formal establishment of African reserves: later 7% of South Africa's land was set aside for this purpose. It was from these kinds of reserve yards that mining, urban-based factories and rural farm workers were sourced by rich white landowners.

But the forerunner to the 1913 Land Act was the British government's Glen Grey Act, introduced in 1894 to do away with communal land rights. The act introduced limited individual tenure and it was hoped that Africans could be forced to become less independent in relation to their participation in the economy. It sought to vindicate landowners at the expense of black, Indian and coloured communal land rights. The Khoe and San indigenes became spectators, dependent and excluded from the colonial cash economy. Migratory, rent-paying African tenants, some of them cash croppers living and farming the land in the Drakenstein district areas, like Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschoek, Wellington the Koue Bokkeveld, Boland, Tyger Vallei and Durbanville, were left insolvent.

A key provision of the act was to force these workers into wage labour serving only white farmer privilege, mostly without payment. In the meantime, white working class in collaboration with their rich white counterparts finally succeeded in defending their interests, not on the basis of collective bargaining power, but on the colour of their skin.

The Group Areas Act of 1950, hallmark of the apartheid government, provided the motive for ethnic residential segregation. Thousands of coloured and Indian families were driven from the inner city areas to reserves on the Cape Flats. However, preparations were made earlier in the legislated Native Act of 1923, which already promised the removal of black people from areas such as District Six to Uitvlugt (later renamed Ndabeni), then to Langa, from Windemere to Nyanga, and from Retreat to Nyanga West, which was later renamed Gugulethu. These areas were already overcrowded, inflicting intense bitterness and suffering on the lives of millions of black, coloured and Indian Africans.

Towards the Framework for the Review of the 'willing buyer, willing seller' Principle Third Draft Discussion Document, 17 September 2006, the then Department of Land Affairs revealed that only the landowner benefits. This gives the farmer carte blanche to inflate the land value. Yet farmers still refuse to sell even if it promotes a meaningful transaction and land reform. This rationale guarantees non-cooperative patriarchal mindsets who seek to ignore targets set by government to transfer 30% of land by 2014.

As long as landowners hold monopoly control on the means of production, the landless stand no chance of achieving a decent standard of living. History will continue to repeat itself as long as worker demands remain in limbo, dependent on meagre government grants and charitable handouts. After all, is it not the farm and urban factory workers who are the geese that lay the golden egg for the rich?

In 2011 democracy has left a bittersweet taste in the mouths of millions of South Africans. Land ownership still remains securely positioned, mostly in old, moneyed inheritance and business. Notwithstanding of course our greedy BEE black brothers and sisters who are licking their lips for a cut of the profits.

It continues, by and large, to be at the mercy of a few unwilling rich whites who have their profits comfortably stashed away in local and foreign banks. They invest in the stock exchange, mining, agriculture, restaurants, shops and shopping centres, tourism, fashion and the media. You name it, they own it.

According to a panel discussion on SAfm, a few months ago a caller made it known that 13% of the land was owned by black/coloured people, and whites own 87%. To date, 5% has been redistributed. Is this true? And what are the fears of those who benefit from the 'willing buyer, willing seller' principle? For how long will those who suffer its consequences play second fiddle to its senseless methodology?

The truth is that people must be put back on the land. And by people we mean black, Coloured, Indian and white people to work it communally. How can we transform the land if workers are still in servitude to capital and the economy? Would nationalisation not be a solution to the masses' predicament? I have heard mutterings lately that a revolution is a reality not a threat. Do we blindly sing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica, without noticing how Die Stem has found a comfortable space in our anthem? How ironic.

In 1660, Jan van Riebeeck's diary summed up the feelings of the Khoe at the time when the land grabstarted.

'They (the Khoe), strongly insisted that we had been appropriating more and more of their land, which had been theirs all these centuries, and on which they had been accustomed to let their cattle graze, etc. They asked if they would be allowed to do such a thing supposing they went to Holland, and they added (in their own words): 'It would be of little consequence if you people stayed here at the fort, but you come right into the interior and select the best land for yourselves, without even asking whether we mind or whether it will cause us any inconvenience ...'

The land changed ownership from one generation to the next. Black, Indian and coloured people have made scavenging a way of life. From one generation to the next, scratching in bins, sleeping on the streets and begging is a daily occurrence, and we continue to turn up our noses in disgust at its sight and pungency.

Most rich white people frown upon the working class taking to the streets in defiance and protest at the sad state of affairs regarding land restoration. The truth is that pioneering Free Black farmers and craftsmen and women were divested of their land and wealth way back in the 1600s.

There are obvious reasons why former slaves found it hard to leave a legacy for future generations to acknowledge. Slaves had former owners or appointees who automatically inherited by law what they left behind. Many of them were worn out after years of slave labour and, unlike European settlers, they were not given the aid packages and support systems afforded the French Huguenots.

Between the 1670s and 1720, Free Blacks feature prominently at all social levels in the Cape and made a living from craftsmanship. Isaac van Ternate, Rangton van Bali, Anthonie van Saloor, Jafta van der Caab, and Johannes Adriaanse. Zwart Maria Evert, first title deed owner of Camps Bay, Armozyn van de Caab progenitor of a number of Liesbeeck farm owners, Anna de Koningh, third owner of Groot Constantia, Adam Kok I – founder of the Griqua and landowner in Piketberg, Willem Stolts a highly successful winemaker and 18th-century winemaker Johannes Colyn, who was a descendant of West African slaves. Thereafter they vanish as a social formation without any significant economic power.

Pre-apartheid's forceful colonial histories underlined the assumption that the white elite had the exclusive rights and control of the land and its natural resources. These self-styled rich cattle barons, Adam Tas, Henning Husings and Willem Adriaan Van de Stel, Jan Van Riebeeck, Heinrich Muller, Gerrit Janz van Vuuren, Hans Hendrick Haddingh, A. Van Jaarsveld, and Hendrick Cloete believed this to be true.

By 1658 Khoe forced removals led to the first Khoe-Dutch war from 1659 to 1660. The second war lasted from 1673 to 1677, and later the dreaded small pox epidemic that claimed hundreds of indigenous lives entrenched Dutch power.

One of the biggest crimes against humanity in the history of the Western Cape and South Africa was indigenous dispossession, domestication and death. This savage takeover of Khoe and San farmers, hunter gathers and ex-slaves land continues to be a bone of contention in this new democracy. Should the 'willing buyer willing seller' principle remain, we will remain slaves.

White people still strongly believe that black and coloured people should stop being so 'needy' and find a job: 'After, all we pay huge taxes', they say. According to a caller to SAfm four months ago, 18-20 million people are unemployed and unemployable - mostly people of colour.

Meanwhile the social geography of the Cape's landscape remains unsettling for the descendants of the Khoe, San and slaves. But if all else fails, South Africa remains vulnerable to millions of angry, impatient protesters anxious to reoccupy the land.

Lucy Campbell is an Archival platform correspondent based in Cape Town