Freedom Front Plus leader and deputy agriculture minister, Pieter Mulder recently made some controversial comments about land reform in South Africa. Wonkie suspects that Mr Mulder was sensing the media void created by the lack of Julius Malema and courageously tried to step up to the plate. Unfortunately, he came close but didn’t earn his Noddy badge this time. At least, he needed to have rounded off his statements with a violent death threat, or an appeal for white mass action to come close.
The redistribution of wealth and land is one of the most hotly debated topics in South Africa, evident from the super-popular Desmond Tutu tax the whites cartoon which attracted over 300 comments on Wonkie. Usually, the debate revolves around how much redistribution is enough, rather than whether it is necessary or not. Mr Mulder, however, adventurously decided to leap that trivial issue by questioning whether land redistribution was even necessary at all.
“Africans in particular never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa … There is sufficient proof that there were no Bantu-speaking people in the Western Cape and north-western Cape…” – Pieter Mulder
In his parliamentary address, Mr Mulder subsequently claimed that black Bantu-speaking people had no historical claim to some 40% of the arable land in South Africa. Before slapping Mr Mulder with the stupidity sticker however, consider the fact that his statement may in fact be true. If the argument were about entitlement because of who was here first, his statement may even have warranted some valid consideration. However, Mr Mulder appears to be a sound product of the South African education system and has wound up adding apples and apples to get bananas.
The sound argument for land reform in South Africa is not based on who was here first – it never was (other than by equally stupid commentators at the other end of Mulder’s political spectrum). It is based on the fact that the apartheid-era Land Act restricted ownership of some 87% of South Africa to whites only. Non-white South Africans were unequivocally instructed where they could live and own land, and where they could not. It is the harsh consequence of that very law that now drives the need for restitution.
Since by definition a discriminatory law is unfair, restitution in this case practically amounts to some agreed land redistribution deal. The debate to restore equity thus has to be about how much is fair and how to do it – as it is in the case of redistribution of wealth, argument a la Tutu.
No doubt, many young white South Africans will feel they are being hard done by the likes of currently discriminatory laws – BEE, affirmative action, even potentially land reform. After all, they weren’t responsible for the apartheid government – in fact, they probably never even had the opportunity to vote for it. So why should they suffer for something they had no control over?
The answer lies in an analogy that can be drawn from US law – it’s called the fruit of the poisonous tree. It is fundamentally unfair to derive benefit, now or in the future, from something that is tainted. Unfortunately for those young white South Africans, apartheid – albeit the law of the previous generation, cannot be described as anything but tainted.