The drum beat on SA land grab quickens

by TAU Bulletin

During the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in the late nineties, the  Commission declared in its findings that there were four different kinds of truth. The Commission “rejected the popular assumption” that there are only two options to be considered when talking about truth – subjective and objective information – but that there were other kinds of truth – “personal or narrative” truth, “social or dialogue” truth and “healing or restorative” truth. We wonder which kind of truth is being published in our media on the history of land ownership in South Africa, and specifically why the reasons for the codification behind the South African 1913 Land Acts are being pointedly ignored.

South African history is arguably one of the world’s most controversial chronicles, but it was chronicled by those who could and did: the first Europeans who landed at the Cape, the subsequent colonial government, the missionaries, and the Europeans who made South Africa their home as did their counterparts who made other new world countries their home. The present government can only refer to the 1913 Land Act as a point of reference because their forefathers did not have the written word. They have no proof of anything other than what someone else wrote about. It is thus ironic that these complainants refer to “historical theft”, “land grabbing”, “stolen dreams”, “structural inequalities” and “infamous laws” as if they had their own factual proof that these circumstances existed.

Facts are ignored in the surfeit of hyperbole and distortions carried by the South African media which is increasingly becoming a mouthpiece of the government’s fraudulent propaganda.

A rooibos tea farm in South Africa
A rooibos tea farm in South Africa

TAU SA’s two previous Bulletins exposed this disinformation about the history of land in South Africa and the land devastation of Zimbabwe.  Nobody in the media published one word of these Bulletins. TAU SA requested the Johannesburg Sunday Times to publish the 1913 Land Act Bulletin as an advertisement. The cost of a half page is around R180 000. TAU SA was completely ignored. The paper was not prepared to publish anything other than the politically correct myths and false dissemination about the history of land in this country.

This should reveal something to readers of this Bulletin. If the facts are ignored, who is kidding whom about press freedom in South Africa?

The media

City Press, a publication within the largest Afrikaans press stable in South Africa, carried a full-page article “A century of stolen dreams” containing the opinions and historical fantasies of one Dr. Ruth Hall from the University of the Western Cape. On the adjoining page was an article by ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu entitled “A Call to Accelerate Restitution”.  His article was entirely predictable – land is a “ticking time bomb”.  At the bottom of the double page spread was a large piece  on the now discredited book by three British academics called “Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land” on which we wrote in a previous Bulletin. This double-page centre spread’s ideological humbug is served up as a true picture of the land question in South Africa.

Who is Dr. Ruth Hall and why does she have a say while not one word from commercial agriculture – the people who actually produce South Africa’s food –  is printed anywhere? Hall holds a Ph.D. from OxfordUniversity in the UK and is an Associate Professor at the University of the Western Cape. She joined in 2002 and has continually punted a leftist, ideological viewpoint which is a total disconnect from SA’s agricultural realities. Her SA history in the article was distorted and her sanctimony and bitter criticism of the twin plagues of colonialism and apartheid infect her pronouncements.  The “erasing of history, unjust laws, cheap migrant labour, the legacies of displacement, deprivation, dispossession, inequality and poverty” are alluded to as being the fault of whites. She laments the fact that there was not a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Land.

South Africa’s largest circulation newspaper the Sunday Times gave prime space to one  Mtobeli Mxotwa , spokesman from the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform whose article was entitled ”Radical steps needed to right the 1913 wrong”, while leftist Gareth van Onselen’s article on the same centre page was headlined “Consequences of a cruel act linger on”.

The absolutely useless ANC Youth League was given top space in The Citizen to say that “Land reform is too slow” while a large colour picture of President Jacob Zuma and the Minister of Rural Development shows them at the opening of an exhibition entitled “Reversing the legacy of the Natives Land Act 1913” at the Cape Town Convention Centre. Some newspapers printed critiques of current legislation but not one paper printed theTAU SA bulletin or excerpts thereof containing the historical facts on the history of land in South Africa.

The Land Act bulletin was specifically sent to Business Day, asking that some of it be printed. TAU SA was ignored. To top it all, the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport(30.6.13)  carried an article by “political analyst” J.P. Landman who sees the government’s land reform program is a “political requirement for community and political stability”. In other words, hand over the farms to appease the (mostly violent) mob demands. Thus we are to continually appease each time there’s a riot, or a threat of violence. Feed the crocodile until it devours you! His Zimbabwe allegory is completely wrong – agriculture was destroyed by Robert Mugabe when he lost the 2000 election and grabbed farms to placate the so-called war veterans who demanded land, not because land was not handed over earlier. is Zimbabwe allegory is completely wrong – the land(Perhaps Mr. Landman would like to hand over some of his property as an appeasement gesture!)


Instead of all of the above, when will the South African media explain the truth about land in South Africa? Whose viewpoints should be exposed to the population – those who produce the food or those who talk about expropriation, who draft parliamentary laws to further curb commercial farming, who are establishing a land valuer’s office to determine the price of land according to themselves, who urge giving in to the violence of the mobs, or the British university zealots with leftist agendas?

Getting the facts to the South African public is becoming as difficult as the course taken by samizdat activists during the worst years of the old Soviet Union.  From the Russian sam “self”, and izdatelstvo “publishing”, these activists’ literature was secretly written, copied and distributed  during the periods of Soviet repression. We haven’t reached this point yet, but when a national newspaper refuses to print undisputable facts about land in South Africa, and even refuses a paid advertisement containing these facts, then we can’t be too far behind. TAU SA’s bulletin and other news is disseminated via the internet, but the masses who vote for the ANC only read the inflammatory nonsense propagated by government-supporting academics and ANC spokesmen. These masses clamor for land based on this disinformation. They believe Jackson Mthembu’s ticking time bomb warning, and his statement that Africans can only build from the “ruins of the past” if they have a piece of land on which to do so. This is dangerous nonsense. Forty million black people each with a piece of land?

TAU SA tries to maintain the very best relationships with the media: there is also much appreciation of how the media has handled TAU SA’s viewpoints and how they have been presented in the media.  In this light it is thus strange that this important topic is met with almost absolute silence. It doesn’t make sense. TAU SA is of the opinion that the land question is of crucial importance, given the implications for food security in South Africaand the emotional way it is presented to the voting public. The other side of the story should be heard – especially when this “other side” consists of the very people who produce South Africa’s food. For the sake of justice we would like to see this happen.

What are the facts?

  • All the undisputable facts on the history of land in South Africa can be found in the book “Disputed Land” by Louis Changuion and Bertus Steenkamp. Almost a third of the book contains historical documentation to back up the contents of the book. (It can be bought at As far as we know, not one South African publication has reviewed this book.
  • Only 35 000 commercial farmers provide food for South Africa’s nearly 53 million people. If the emotive recommendations of Dr. Hall, and the ignorant demands of the ANC ever become realities, will Dr. Hall and the ANC suggest suitable food supply replacements for SA’s commercial farming sector’s production?  In a 25 June press release, TAU SA asks that the government “take active steps to prevent more farmers leaving the industry to avoid South Africa relying on unsustainable food imports”. The World Bank recently warned that food demand is growing, and that “disruptive weather events are increasing in frequency and amplitude. The variables that surround agriculture are increasingly volatile. Countries will not export food if they are themselves vulnerable.” The World Bank continues:  “About 50% of global grain supplies are in India and Chinaand they are not exporting them. Countries from India to Egypt to Vietnam to Indonesia banned exports of rice during the 2008 crisis, while sudden changes in trade policy also affect exports.”  Will the ANC turn South Africa into a country dependent on others for food?
  • The government’s land restitution policy is an abject failure. Hundreds of farms have been lost to production.
  • Black Economic Empowerment has not left agriculture alone. The current Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Bill is due for amendment, and comment has been called for. It is a fact that profit after tax on average assets of a working farm in South Africa is 1,7%.  Farming enterprises are running on thin margins – 85% of livestock producers show a profit per annum of less than R40 000 per month, while 27% of general farmers run at a loss and 58% make a profit of between zero and R500 000. Most farmers cannot afford BEE. BEE scorecards have been presented to agriculture on which little research has been conducted. If this legislation is thrust upon commercial farmers, many will go out of business, further impinging upon food security in South Africa.
  • Agriculture throughout the world is increasingly less labour intensive. The US farm population today is only 1,5% of the total. Yet American farmers feed 320 million people and they export massive quantities of food around the world. Thus this “hunger for land” and “everyone must have a piece of land” punted by the ANC is clearly a sop to their electorate but a danger to food security. South Africa will simply relapse into one huge squatter camp if commercial farms are broken up and redistributed.

Indeed the agricultural warning drum has been beating but who is listening? The “free” press should ask itself whether honest information or politically correct propaganda is its mission, and whether it should be held responsible for a collapse of food security in South Africa.