SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts
CLOSINGS: View Closings

South Africa's land dilemma

The country is locked in a controversial debate about land redistribution to try and right historical injustices. CNN's David McKenzie reports.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 11:59 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 12:31 AM

To understand what questions of land seizures and farm murders are all about, rural KwaZulu Natal is a good place to start.

Roland Henderson walks on the creaky floorboards of his stone farmhouse and points to a series of five sepia photographs hanging on the cream wall.

"These are my ancestors on the wall. So, if I loaf about during the day, they are watching me," he says with a chuckle.

Henderson's family has farmed in Besters, a cattle district of rolling grassland hills and acacia trees, for five generations.

"History is complicated in South Africa," I remark to him. "Our forebears took land from people. If not always directly, it was certainly helped by the legislation of the previous government. What do you think of that part of your legacy?"

"We can't ignore that. I don't think commercial farmers should atone for all the sins of apartheid that were committed," he says.

In Besters, the farmers are grappling hands-on with one of South Africa's most challenging historical problems.

When Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress came to power in South Africa in 1994, one of the key dilemmas they faced was the so-called land question.

The policy of pushing non-white South Africans off the land to the benefit of whites officially began with the 1913 Native Lands Act, though in reality the practice stretches back centuries.

The act limited black ownership to just 7% of the land. The vast majority of viable land was allotted to whites.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently described the Lands Act as South Africa's "original sin."

"In my own family it happened twice, where land was taken, we were moved from where my parents had grown up owning land, working the land, they were moved and dropped into an arid place with no compensation whatsoever," said Ramaphosa in an exclusive interview with CNN.

"As it is now, the poverty that we have in South Africa, in part, has been given rise to by people not having assets."

This racist geography was accelerated during the apartheid years, when legislation codified the nationalist party's aims to keep races physically separated. Blacks and mixed-race South Africans were removed from cities and pushed into townships or homelands -- land allotted to non-whites, according to their ethnic identity.

They had to have a passbook, a kind of internal passport, to travel to designated white areas.

In Ladysmith, the nearest town to Besters, the "black spots" in town were erased in the 1970s, the non-white families forced out to a township called Ezakheni, some 15 miles away.

With the advent of democracy, land redistribution was, in theory, a top priority. But the South African government's efforts have been beset by problems.

The farmers in Besters didn't wait for them to rectify the past.

More than a decade ago, the commercial farmers in Besters held hundreds of meetings with the local community. As a result, with the help of government money, they have redistributed almost half of their district's land.

"It's complicated and there are many layers of history and many layers of conflict, but if you put everybody around a table and you talk to each other openly and honestly, you can find each other," says Henderson.

Emerging farmers like Ndizane Khosa have used their new land to raise cattle, chickens and sheep, and access to capital has allowed them to pull their families out of poverty.

"When we were growing up we had no idea how this farming worked, but our grandkids have the opportunity to learn properly now. I can pass that knowledge to them," Khosa says.

"In our district I have seven neighbors and they are all different colors, but we live happily together and there's place in the sun for us all," says Henderson.

The success of land redistribution in Besters is the anomaly, not the norm.

Exhaustive studies show that the ANC-led government has failed to execute its policy of land restitution and redistribution because of corruption, mismanagement and a lack of will. The vast majority of private land -- farmland included -- is owned by whites.

"A lot is at stake," said Ramaphosa. "You could even say that the stability of the country is at stake. And I am not fond of failing at anything. And this issue we will not fail on."

The ANC, pushed by an insurgent opposition party on the left, has resolved to amend the constitution to explicitly allow land redistribution without compensation. It is a highly contentious move that is working through a parliamentary process.

While Henderson, Khosa and the other farmers of Besters managed to broker a negotiated future for the land in their rural slice of South Africa, they are facing new pressures to take sides in the land debate.

RELATED: They're prepping for a race war. And they see Trump as their 'ray of hope'

They say the extremes could scupper the experiment of a democratic South Africa.

"We are getting drowned out by the rhetoric and by the noise of the politicians and the noise of others," says Henderson on the balcony of his farmhouse. "It is difficult to galvanize the middle, because we tend to be more silent than the extremes. The middle needs to have their voice heard."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 270157

Reported Deaths: 3297
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin579261084
Ramsey24528470
Anoka19211213
Dakota18738176
Washington12351104
Stearns1200389
Scott735654
St. Louis712297
Wright646135
Olmsted604730
Sherburne499538
Clay435954
Carver397312
Blue Earth367011
Rice350331
Kandiyohi337613
Crow Wing306729
Nobles293828
Chisago27778
Benton256338
Otter Tail251415
Winona240928
Mower232822
Polk222221
Douglas211929
Morrison207521
Lyon189810
McLeod18089
Beltrami177115
Goodhue173126
Becker16769
Itasca165223
Steele16396
Todd161412
Isanti159115
Carlton148310
Nicollet144523
Freeborn13625
Mille Lacs129030
Le Sueur12899
Waseca128710
Pine11625
Cass11538
Brown112610
Meeker10117
Martin97020
Roseau9443
Hubbard92822
Wabasha8961
Dodge7770
Watonwan7604
Redwood75118
Chippewa7437
Renville68818
Sibley6844
Cottonwood6800
Wadena6706
Pipestone65618
Aitkin64722
Rock6259
Houston6012
Fillmore5910
Yellow Medicine55310
Unassigned52756
Murray5173
Pennington5076
Kanabec49711
Swift4835
Faribault4650
Pope4620
Stevens4342
Clearwater4156
Marshall4047
Jackson3981
Lake3463
Koochiching3275
Wilkin3175
Lac qui Parle3123
Lincoln3081
Norman3006
Big Stone2711
Mahnomen2404
Grant2256
Red Lake1833
Kittson1786
Traverse1190
Lake of the Woods821
Cook570

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 210482

Reported Deaths: 2173
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk31270322
Linn13252158
Scott1022075
Black Hawk10209126
Woodbury9870111
Johnson900835
Dubuque866490
Story637819
Dallas595555
Pottawattamie574666
Sioux349925
Webster330928
Marshall327841
Cerro Gordo323041
Clinton303637
Buena Vista290214
Muscatine266964
Des Moines266116
Plymouth257937
Warren254610
Wapello239971
Jones221112
Jasper202739
Marion191518
Carroll188220
Lee188015
Bremer176012
Henry16847
Crawford168215
Benton157414
Tama145140
Jackson13608
Delaware134721
Boone127711
Washington126513
Dickinson126210
Mahaska119027
Wright11425
Buchanan10789
Page10774
Hardin105810
Clay10434
Harrison101428
Clayton10084
Cedar98913
Hamilton9877
Mills9806
Calhoun9787
Fayette9588
Lyon9458
Floyd92614
Kossuth9214
Poweshiek91512
Butler8943
Winneshiek88910
Winnebago87423
Iowa86711
Louisa79916
Hancock7947
Chickasaw7853
Grundy77310
Sac7617
Cherokee7484
Cass73519
Appanoose7336
Shelby7184
Allamakee71111
Mitchell7074
Emmet70123
Guthrie69215
Union6866
Franklin67619
Humboldt6495
Madison6414
Jefferson6121
Palo Alto6044
Unassigned5810
Keokuk5237
Pocahontas5072
Howard4999
Osceola4941
Greene4860
Clarke4564
Ida42810
Monroe42812
Montgomery42610
Davis4225
Taylor4162
Adair4066
Monona3912
Fremont3432
Worth3330
Van Buren3294
Lucas3056
Decatur2950
Wayne2836
Audubon2811
Ringgold1832
Adams1521
Rochester
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 22°
Mason City
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 23°
Albert Lea
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Austin
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 27°
Charles City
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 25°
Rain and Snow Moving In For Tuesday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Aaron's Monday Night Forecast

Image

TIC preseason projections

Image

Austin Bruins announce weekend plans

Image

Teams begin to navigate the pause on sports

Image

Rochester to Create Liquor License Fee Relief Program

Image

A "Thank You" to health care workers

Image

Business operators react to Governor's latest plans

Image

Aaron's Monday Evening Forecast

Image

Food insecurity in younger adults.

Image

Food insecurity survey with University of Minnesota

Community Events