Zama Ntsele

The demand for land is a cry that seeks to advance the complete overhaul of the socioeconomic system, as a means to deal with the dire sociological implications of the current classist, heteronormative, misogynistic, racist and neoliberal colonial system.

In the recent years of the development of the South African political landscape, the conversation surrounding the demand for land redistribution has become central. In an unfortunate reality of prevailing conditions, the colonial imperialist powers that be have been able to redirect the conversation in many ways, to such an extent that the question has lost its substance.

There have been multiple conceptualisations – or attempts thereof, of the topic at hand. The most prevailing of these conceptualisations has been the disheartening attempt to relegate the demand to one that is merely centred on farming and agricultural land. They have boldly positioned the call as a demand to address issues of food security. While these are an integral part of our demand, they in fact do not capture its true essence. Others would believe that our demand for land ownership is the product of strictly economic drivers, and while many amongst us share this belief, nothing could be further from the truth. In our journey towards land expropriation and redistribution, we must assert boldly that this is neither just a call for the redistribution of agricultural land nor is it a strictly economic demand. We must seek to ensure that this is in fact a cry that seeks to advance the complete overhaul of the socioeconomic system, as a means to deal with the dire sociological implications of the current classist, heteronormative, misogynistic, racist and neoliberal colonial system.

Essentially defining the South African land we demand expropriated as: “Anything on, above and below the surface of this regional zone – country.” At this stage, the obvious question on your mind is we redistribute the land and then what? In a nutshell, ours is to attain the land as a means to give birth to the egalitarian society that was envisioned by our dear ancestors that is free of categorisation, exploitation, oppression and violence. This egalitarian society that we have envisioned is not only characterised by a neoliberal conceptualisation to equality, no. Our egalitarian society is characterised by equality that is defined through self-determination, co-existence and freedom from systematic oppression of all people.

I want to rise to echo the sentiments expressed by Ntokozo Sbo Qwabe, one of the founders of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oxford University. “The region currently known as South Africa has been occupied since 1652 and remains occupied,” he wrote recently on Facebook.

This relatively simple and clearly articulated sentence is a thing of beauty in as far as capturing the material reality of this country is concerned. We are subjected to rule by imperialist powers, whose agenda is to extract as much from the African continent as possible in general and from South Africa in particular. All while maintaining and developing centuries old social, economic, political and psychological warfare.

Now when we demand land, we do so not because we are some irrational and non-thinking entities who just want the land to play hide-and-seek, but we do so from a well-researched and thought out position. We do so because we understand that the land is life, our dignity, our future. We do that because when we move on board rented vehicles within duties of the plantation, we are confronted with thousands of acres that we are told are owned by Piet and the van der Merwe family. This while the Khumalos, the Mfanas, and the Mokoenas of these lands are forced to live on top of each other in congested townships and squatter camps. We demand the land not because we are bored and do not have something to do, but because we are bored by the system in which our ‘things’ must be done. We cannot continue to live like third class citizens who are captives of poverty and sacrifices of the system, never!

I mean, can you just imagine going through this:

You are herding your family cows to the grazing fields when all of a sudden two trucks appear speeding out of nowhere and stop besides you. Around four people with assault rifles jump out from each truck and tell you to lie on the floor. You resist in an attempt to ask a question when your mouth is forced close by the sound of your breaking tooth as the back of the rifle reunites you with the ground. There as you lie in piercing pain, you are brought back to reality by a kick to the ribs, and another and another and you try to ignore the pain. You are confronted with the vivid voice of your parent(s) calling your name and trying to intervene. As you try to stagger to your feet in an attempt to compel them to return to the house, you are immobilised by an industrial boot to the back of the head. As your face hits the ground and within the darkness, you hear a hail of bullets being unleashed. Upon multiple failed attempts to open your eyes, when you finally do and as the fog clears, the cadavers of those from whose seeds you blossomed begin to materialise covered in the oh so common liquid of a breaking heart. When you look up, all 300 of your family cattle are being loaded onto the trucks and dynamite is used to blow up your home. You are tied up and beaten to a pulp, right to a point where you lose consciousness.

You wake up, and you are locked away in an unfamiliar cage like apparatus in a dark room. While you sit looking around in an attempt to understand what is happening, the door opens and a voice soon after yells, “they are awake!” And a man comes in – face covered followed by another, and another and another. The four men tell you to stand up, and while helping you up, explain how you have been summoned by the masters. While you stumble out of the dark room, you notice a lot of familiar things in the area only to find out that you have been held prisoner in your home – or former home. At the end of the journey to the master, you are encountered with a door and as you are yanked through it, you see those eyes. Those purely evil eyes that gave you a look of celebration upon ending your parent’s lives. The same eight people who murdered your parents and stole your family cattle had moved into your family farm. You find out that they bred and sold the cattle and made millions, which they used to develop the lands and build a multi-billion rand legacy. While you are watching this nightmare unfold you are informed that you are to be the masters’ servant for the rest of your days, and they will grant you a meal and a place to sleep. In your family home which is now their empire.

The above scenario is but a fictional enactment of the realities that landed on our shores from the 6th of April 1652, where our ancestors were dispossessed, dehumanized and killed by foreign imperialists. These imperialists settled here enslaved our people and exploited their labour and resources to build empires, governments and systems to run the world.

These settlers then reproduced, accumulating additional wealth through exploitation for centuries. Their descendants remain on the throne of ill-gotten privilege that must be usurped, while we – the descendants of the slaves they could not kill, remain toiling in perpetual poverty and an existence of servitude to them. In our own home, might I add? Something must give, and it must give quickly.

We must understand that each and every institution within this system is designed to be oppressive. It was built to marginalise you to the core should you not be a heterosexual, caucasian and male. This is most probably because it was designed by heterosexual, caucasian men. This for me is a reality I am convinced we cannot change, because unlike every other liberation activist, I believe that it is too entrenched. My position is that in relation to the world, our preoccupation should not be to change it, but to rebuild it.

As indigenous people of Africa, we have a genetic responsibility to conceptualise and build our own societies, governed by our own rules and laws and influenced by our own standards. This to many may seem impossible but is highly possible seeing that if a community has 600 000 inhabitants and they all contribute R10 to the cause, that is already R6 000 000. Our issue is not that we lack ability, but that we are intentionally marginalised and disorganised. We need to advance the agenda to build for ourselves. We need our own governments, our own institutions, our own primary, secondary and tertiary schools, our own financial institutions (banks, life insurance providers, funeral cover providers, etc.), our own food production and distribution points, our own businesses and regulatory bodies as well as our own television and entertainment.

Yet in order for us to be able to do this we need the LAND to build on. We need the land to mine and make resources to finance construction of infrastructure. We need the land to plant food to consume and trade. We need the land to keep cattle. We need the land for dignity! We need the land to restore our humanity, and she must therefore be returned to her rightful custodians.

Published via ACTIVATE! Change Drivers. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is a youth leadership network of over 2 500 members and counting. We are committed to making the ideas of young people into the tangible solutions they want to see in South Africa. Moreover, we realise that young people are already implementing a lot of solutions across the country and thus also commit to illuminate their work, making them visible as the true heroes they are. We do this by connecting young people who are doing similar things and giving exposure to young people who are making a difference in efforts to inspire and influence other young people to also become active citizens. We also create platforms where young people can provoke conversations on controversial issues in order to find innovative solutions. Liza is a member of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers network.