The history of land grabbing
in South Africa
Farmlands in the Swartland area of the Western Cape
Land in South Africa has always been a bone of contention.
When the Dutch arrived in the Cape in the 1650's the acquisition of land began.
The first people to lose their land at the Cape were the Khoi who used it to graze their animals.
With farms being given to families all around the Cape it soon became impossible for the Khoi to reach their normal grazing grounds as they had to cross farms belonging to the Dutch.
Of course there were soon disputes which inevitably the Khoi lost resulting in them having to find new grazing and water for their animals.
The Dutch finally entrenched themselves in the Cape and ruled it firstly under the Dutch East India company and then
later by the Dutch government employing governors to do the job.
In 1795 the first major land loss occurred when the British invaded the Cape and wrested control of the land from the Dutch.
Shortly afterwards the British were forced to hand the Cape back.
Farmlands in the Moorreesburg area of the Western cape
Dutch rule was shortlived as once again in 1806 the British invaded the Cape after landing their troops at Melkbosstrand.
The Dutch were defeated in the Battle of Blaauwberg and so started the long stint of British rule at the Cape which later spread to the whole of South Africa.
The Boers ( Dutch farmers ) soon became disenchanted with the Cape because of laws promulgated by the British and so began the Groot Trek where the farmers packed up and moved northwards into the interior.
These farmers settled in what today is the Free State and the Transvaal (Gauteng) where in the 1860's gold and diamonds were discovered.
As the British would not allow the farmers to possess the diamond and goldfields of the north they attacked them in what later became known as the First Boer war.
Using tactics that the British did not understand the Boers defeated them and were granted self rule in the Transvaal region under the watchful eye of the British.
This defeat wrankled the British who still had their beady eyes on the gold and diamond fields of the Boer Republics.
In 1899 Cecil John Rhodes and the British could no longer contain their greed and once again attacked the two Boer republics defeating them and annexing them for the Britsh empire.
To win the approval of the Boers compensation of three million pounds was paid and a promise of eventual self rule was made.
A small price to pay for the richness of the mineral deposits found in these areas.
Of course once under British rule the peoples of these two regions were forced to fall into line with British laws.
Not only the Boers but African peoples in the regions were forced to bow to British rule.
Finally in 1910 it was decided that all the provinces in South Africa would be joined together in a union under British rule.
The British were now free to rape and pillage the mineral deposits of South Africa.
As the upper crust British considered the local black peoples inferior and did not want them in their cities they herded them into reserves away from their cities and towns.
The Africans were allowed very few rights.
In 1913 the British Government of the day dropped a further bombshell when it introduced The Native Land Act whereby it barred African peoples from purchasing land anywhere other than in the declared African reserves and also restricted their rights to live on white owned farms.
In 1923 a further Act was passed where influx controls of African peoples to cities was controlled and segregation of residential areas was enforced.
The first steps towards full apartheid had been made.
Over the years further laws were passed which further restricted the movements and land ownership by African peoples.
Where there were clusters of African people living in the centre of white owned land they were simply removed and placed in reserves whether they wanted to go or not.
Land grabbing by the then SA government had become an art.
In the early 1990's it started to become obvious that the condtions under which Black South Africans lived could no longer continue.
The Nationalist government finally had to admit that changes had to be made and in 1994 an election took place that made world headlines.
South Africa elected its first Black government who had the unenviable task of undoing the wrongs of the past.
One of the issues faced by the new government was restitution of land to its former owners.
A claims procedure was set in place when 1994 Restitution of Land Rights Act was passed.
Since then millions of hectares of land have been returned.
It's a sad fact however, that since the process of restitution has begun that 75% of agricultural productive land returned to beneficiaries of claims has been allowed to fall into disuse by the new owners.
As further land claims are settled in the future even more farms are going to be returned and even more agricultural land is going to be allowed to fall into disuse.
If this trend continues South Africa could soon be facing an agricultural meltdown such as has been experienced in
Can we as South Africans allow this to happen?
Email : Geoff Fairman
6 Bothma Street, Monte Vista 7460 South Africa
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Page updated 1.6.2015