by Motsoko Pheko
If South Africa is an independent, decolonized, democratic country under the control of its Black majority, then why is 93% of the land still owned by whites? The author maintains that the real anti-colonial struggle was betrayed, and “became a civil rights movement.” The descendants of white settlers were allowed to keep their stolen spoils. “Apartheid” was declared the problem – “a colonial a ploy to hide colonial theft of the African country.”
Why Africans Have No Land in South Africa
by Motsoko Pheko
“Destruction of apartheid is not the same thing as the destruction colonialism.”
LAND! LAND! LAND! There is a lot of talk about land in South Africa today. It looks like some people have been asleep about this important national asset. Others who talk about land today in this country did their part in betraying the land question.
For the benefit of those who are genuinely concerned about this fundamental question I revisit the problem of land dispossession of Africans in South Africa. It stems from a mutilated history, the manipulation of international law and, of course, from those who betrayed the land question in South Africa in June 1955.
I will come to that later. But for now let me state that land dispossession of the African people did not fall from the sky. It formally started with the European Berlin General Act of 26 February 1885.This was at the Berlin Conference. It was when Belgium’s King Leopold reminded his fellow colonialists on the verge of stealing the whole continent of Africa except modern Ethiopia that: “We are here to see how we should divide among ourselves this magnificent African cake.”
From that time seven Western European countries agreed to divide Africa among themselves into “Portuguese” Africa, “Spanish” Africa, “German” Africa, “French” Africa, “Belgian” Africa, “Italian” Africa, “British” Africa. South Africa (Azania) became part of “British” Africa. Somalia, a tiny African country, had the misfortune of becoming “French” Somaliland, “Italian” Somaliland, and “British” Somaliland.
Azania became a “British” territory with four colonies it renamed Cape colony, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal. All funny colonial names because Natal means “Christmas Day;” Vasco da Gama had passed through there on 25 December 1497. “Orange Free State” -- there are no oranges here. Moreover, a colony could not be “free state” at the same time. Transvaal simply meant “across the Vaal.” This was the name of an African river called Lekoa in the Sesotho language.
“Land dispossession of the African people formally started with the European Berlin General Act of 26 February 1885.”
The British colonial law which created the union of these four colonies was cited as the Union of South Africa Act 1909. It was passed directly by the British Parliament on 20 September 1909. It excluded and racially discriminated against Africans. Through the Native Land Act 1913, the parliament of these colonial settlers allocated 93% of the African land to themselves. They were numbering 349,837 souls. This colonial parliament allocated the remaining 7% of land to over five million African owners of this African country.
Section 44 of this Union of South Africa Act 1909 stated the qualifications of members of the assembly very clearly. “The Qualifications of Members of Assembly (Parliament)….He must be a British subject of European descent.”
The purpose of the four colonies of the Union of South Africa soon became clear. It was “to fight the native danger.” The Africans now became “danger” to the colonial invaders in their own African country. This is well documented by constitutional lawyers Gilbert Dold and C.P. Joubert in their book, The British Commonwealth – The Development of Laws and Constitutions in South Africa, Stevens & Sons Ltd, London. See also Fowler and Smith in their book, History For The Senior Certificate and Matriculation, p. 428.
By the way the only subject I ever failed in my matriculation was history as then taught. I disagreed with that history even in an examination room with consequences of being failed for not upholding the colonial history as written by colonialists and also from the Eurocentric view of the world.
“Through the Native Land Act 1913, the parliament of these colonial settlers allocated 93% of the African land to themselves.”
Indeed, as soon as the colonial settlers were granted power by Britain to administer the Union of South Africa, they confirmed the worst fears of the African people. They embarked on turning the African country into a “white man’s country.” The Parliamentary Records of 1910 and 1911 in the Colonial House of Assembly prove this point beyond reasonable doubt.
On 30 November 1910, Colonel Sir A. Wool-Sampson, M.P. Braamfontein, told the House of Assembly in Cape Town that to the best of his recollections during the elections in the Transvaal the majority members declared themselves in the most positive terms, their determination to make this a whiteman’s country. He said the time had come when honorable members had to carry out their promises to the electorate and assure South Africa that they were all in earnest when they said, “This shall be a white man’s country.”
M.H. De Waal, M.P. for Wolmaranstad, said that he agreed with the honorable member who had moved the amendment that it was time to cry ‘halt!’ in regard to the question of mixed marriages because if they did not, instead of getting a white South Africa they would get a Creole (black) nation growing up.
The problem of land dispossession of Africans by colonialists led to the formation of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC). It was with the approval of African Kings who had lost their land to colonial aggressors and invaders using guns against spears. On 20 July 1914 African leaders of SANNC such as Mr. Sol Plaatje, Rev. John Dube, Dr. R.W. Rubusane, Mr. Thomas Mapikela and Mr. Saul Msane handed a petition to King George of England. In their petition they demanded among other things that “the natives (indigenous African owners of the land) be put in possession of land in proportion to their numbers, and on the same conditions as the white race.”
Colonial Injustice and Falsehood Persisted
The African leaders of the SANNC gained very little on their trip to King George to plead for the return of their own land. A sympathetic London daily newspaper however, spilled the beans. It reported:
“In carving out estates for themselves in Africa, the white [European] races have shown little regard for the claims of the black man [African]. They have appropriated his land and have taken away his economic power and freedom and have left him worse than they found him…the blacks compared with whites are in proportion four to one, but are in legal occupation of one fifteenth of their land…the deputation of natives now in England has appealed to the imperial government for protection.”
How Did Apartheid Take Center Stage Over Colonialism?
How was the world deceived, that the problem in South Africa was apartheid? That this apartheid began in 1948 with Daniel Malan of the Afrikaners? Racism, which was later called “apartheid” in South Africa, was a colonial a ploy to hide colonial theft of the African country and its riches and keep Africans ignorant of the true nature of the African liberation struggle.
A British colonial official, Glen Grey, in South Africa in 1894 is on record saying: “The Natives [Africans] are generally looked upon by Whites as an inferior race, whose interests must be systematically disregarded when they come into competition with their own and should be governed with a view to the advantage of the superior race. For this reason two things must be afforded to white colonists, LAND…the Kaffir population [derogatory colonial term for Africans] should be made to furnish, as large and cheap a supply of labor as possible.”
Of course there are justice-loving people in England who spoke against the colonial dispossession of the African people. Sir Thomas Farewell Buxton of the Anti-Slavery Society wrote, “My attention has been drawn to the wickedness of our proceedings as a nation, towards countries of natives we seize [by military force].We have usurped their land and enslaved them. Their greatest crime is the LAND of their forefathers.” (Sir Thomas Farewell Buxton, Edited Memoirs, London, 1926)
Prince Maqoma of the Xhosa-speaking Africans took part in a number of wars of national resistance against colonial land dispossession of the African people. Before he was imprisoned by colonial invaders of this African country in Robben Island in 1859, he told a British colonial soldier Colonel Wade:
“We [Africans] are to repossess land again. It was bequeathed to us by our ancestors, to hold, nurture and make it productive for their progeny….You [colonialists] came out of the sea to our land. Like a serpent you emerged out of the sea to our land. Besides, you had no tongue to speak to us. We waited to know why you had come. Instead we heard you are settling and taking more possession of our land.
“But this is our land. You made us vanish, not exist. We are our land. We cannot give up. We cannot rest. Without land, we cannot be.”
He died in Robben Island Prison in 1873.
In 1955 in South Africa, the African National Congress without even the knowledge and consent of Chief Albert Luthuli who was then the ANC President, came up with a document from some neo-liberal whites. They denied the anti-colonial nature of the African liberation struggle and demoted it to the mere level of anti-apartheid. The anti-colonial liberation struggle now became a civil rights movement.
They wrote a document in 1955 for the ANC called the “Freedom Charter.” It was in essence a freedom cheater. It contradicted and rejected the whole history of the African country. Its preamble falsely claimed:
“We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country, and the world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white…And therefore, we the people of South Africa black and white together, equal countrymen and brothers adopt the Charter.”
What Was the Response of Their “Countrymen” and “Brothers”?
This has been the reaction of ANC “countrymen” and “brothers.” In 1961 the colonial prime minister of South Africa, Hendrik Verwoerd, told an audience in London: “More than 300 years ago, two population groups equally foreign to South Africa converged in rather small numbers on what was practically empty land. Neither group colonized or robbed the other by invasion.”
His foreign affairs minister Eric Louw had earlier said, “The Bantu began to trek from North across the Limpopo when Jan van Riebeeck landed at Table Bay in 1652.”
Even deep into ANC “democracy,” on 16 February 2012, Pieter Muller, minister of agriculture in the ANC government, speaking in a purported “New South Africa” parliament, claimed that Africans in Azania are not the original inhabitants of this African country. He said, “The Bantu-speaking people moved from the Equator down south while the white people moved from the Cape to meet each other at the Kei River.” He did not disclose that colonialists arrived from Europe.
“The earliest date we have for the Iron Age in South Africa goes back to 1200 years before the Portuguese rounded the southern tip of the Continent of Africa.”
But even from European learned sources there is indisputable evidence that Africans were in Azania long before the colonial invaders of this continent. Prof. Shula Marks, a British academic, has pointed out that the carbon dates that have been processed from the Early Iron Age stretching over central, eastern and southern Africa reveals that the first Iron Age African farmers arrived here in the first millennium, and not as had been previously assumed, relatively late in the second.
Prof Marks has further stated that, “The earliest date we have for the Iron Age in South Africa goes back to 1200 years before the Portuguese rounded the southern tip of the Continent of Africa.”
For his part Prof. Revil Mason when addressing a symposium in 1973 on ancient mining in Azania declared that, “the early Iron Age Africans entered Transvaal [northern Azania] between 27 B.C. and 473 A.D.” Prof. Mason was head of archaeology department at Witwatersrand University.
Indeed, Prof. James H. Evans of the Faculty of Colgate Rochester Divinity College in America has correctly asked, “Why does the white myth of South Africa differ widely from reality?”
He hits the nail on the head when he answers that, “… the invaders found it necessary to justify, historically, their invasion of a large portion of a black continent. By controlling the history of the region, they could control its inhabitants…the sole purpose of which is to keep the Black majority in slavery.”
“Freedom Charter” Caused a Break in the Liberation Movement
The “Freedom Charter” of the ANC was a complete departure from the African liberation struggle as had been waged by African Kings through their wars of national resistance against colonial grabbing of their lands. It was also a rejection of the liberation movement as initiated by the South African Native National Congress on 12 January 1912. The “Freedom Charter” caused a split in the liberation movement. The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) was formed as a result of this “Freedom Charter.”
In 1959 Dr. Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe and his colleagues such as Peter Raboroko, Selby Themba Ngendane, Potlako Leballo, A.B. Ngcobo, Zephania Mothopeng, Jafta Masemola and Nyati Pokela who were now leaders of the Pan Africanist Congress warned that:
“Following the capture of a section of a portion of the Black leadership of South Africa by a section of the white ruling class, the masses of our people are in extreme danger of losing sight of the struggle. This captured leadership claims to be fighting for freedom when in truth it is fighting to perpetuate the tutelage of the African people. It is tooth and nail against the Africans gaining effective control of their LAND. It is fighting for the ‘constitutional guarantees’…for our alien nationals.
“It has completely abandoned the objectives of freedom. It has joined the ranks of reactionaries. It is no longer within the ranks of the liberation movement. These ‘leaders’ consider our country and its wealth to belong to all who live in it, dispossessor and the dispossessed, the alien robbers and the indigenous victims. They regard as equals the foreign master and the indigenous slave, the exploiter and the African exploited, the foreign oppressor and the indigenous oppressed.
“They regard as brothers the subject Africans and their European overlords. They are incredibly naïve and fantastically unrealistic to see that the interests of the subject people who are criminally oppressed, ruthlessly exploited and inhumanly degraded, are in conflict and in pointed contradiction with those of the white ruling class….
“These so-called leaders after doing a dirty job, namely, seeing to it that the African is deprived for all time of his inherent right to control his country effectively, of seeing that whatsoever new social order is established in this country, the essentials of white domination are retained, even though its frills and trappings, have been labeled multi-racialism by their masters.”
“The mines cannot be African property before land is returned.”
Of course this Pan Africanist Congress position was vilified as “anti-white.” The truth of the matter is that liberation of colonized people without the return of their land and its riches is a gigantic colonial fraud. Land is life. Land is economy. A land dispossessed people are no better than slaves. In 1993 the ANC went to “negotiate” in CODESA. But the constitution especially in Section 25(7) has consolidated the land dispossession of the African people.
Destruction of apartheid is not the same thing as the destruction colonialism. In 2017 the ANC has ruled “New South Africa” for nearly 24 years. But their government is still nowhere from resolving the land question. Repossession of land and its mineral wealth by colonially land dispossessed Africans was the fundamental objective and primary contradiction of the liberation movement in Azania.
All that the ANC Freedom Cheater has ever hinted is that “the land will be given to those who work it.” What about millions who live in filthy squatters not even fit for pigs? The ANC also said it would transfer the mines. Mines are on the land. How would they be transferred from land that has been returned to its indigenous owners? The mines cannot be African property before land is returned.
As Prince Maqoma who died for land on Robben Island correctly stated, “We [Africans] are to repossess land again…It was bequeathed to us by our ancestors…without land we cannot be.”
In June 1955 the ANC claimed the country belongs all who live in it. It is now 62 years. There is no sign of this. People are “toitoing” all over the country. They have no land even for a decent shelter to sleep.
Britain Betrayed the Africans it Colonized
In the whole history of Africa, Azania is the only African country that Britain colonised but never decolonised. To illustrate this point let me start by showing the following Chart:
Former British colony Date of independence
India (British India)………………………………15 August 1947
Ghana (Gold Coast)………………………….....6 March 1957
Nigeria………………………………..................1 October 1960
Sierra Leone……………………………………19 April 1960
Tanzania (Tanganyika)……………………… 9 December 1961
Uganda……………………………………………9 October 1962
Kenya ……………………………………………12 December 1963
Malawi (Nyasaland)…………………………… 6 July 1964
Zambia (Northern Rhodesia)……………… 24 October 1964
Lesotho (Basutoland)……………………………4 October 1966
Botswana (Bechuanaland)………………… 30 October 1966
Mauratius………………………………………12 March 1968
Swaziland…………………………………………6 September 1968
Fiji…………………………………………………14 October 1970
Seychelles……………………………………… 5 June 1976
Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia)……………….18 April 1980
South Africa (Azania)……………………………?????????????
The biggest lie in colonial history
The biggest lie in the colonial history of Africa and the world is that South Africa was granted “independence” in 1909. In international law if Britain granted South Africa independence under colonial settler rule, this would have been illegal. That of kind “independence” is not the meaning of self-determination. It therefore was null and void because it deprived the African people of their right to self-determination.
Moreover, the purported “independence” would have been an unlawful reneging of the declared British colonial policy that the interests of Africans in its colonies were paramount.
The Joint Select Committee of the British Parliament restated the British colonial policy in 1931. It declared, “The doctrine of paramountcy means no more than that the interests of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population should not be subordinated to those of a minority belonging to another race, however important in itself.”(The Joint Select Committee of [British] Parliament, 1931)
The British Government warned the settlers in its colonies of the consequences of any betrayal of the paramountcy of the interests of the indigenous people over those of the settlers. “Any derogation from this solemn pledge would in the view of His Majesty’s Government be, not only a flagrant breach of trust, also in view of its inevitable effect upon the natives [indigenous Africans] a serious calamity from which the whole colony would not fail to suffer.” (Ibid)
On this matter of colonization of Africa, the British colonial policy had been stated on many occasions. In 1923, particularly with Kenya in mind, another British colony, it was the Conservative Secretary of State Duke of Devonshire who stated that, “Primarily, Kenya is an African territory and His Majesty’s Government think it necessary definitely to record their considered opinion that the interest of African natives is to be paramount and if, those interests and the interests of immigrant races should conflict, the former should prevail.” (Ibid)
“Britain never fulfilled its promises with regard to the decolonization of Africans in South Africa.”
During the First European World War in 1914-1918, Africans in South Africa as loyal British subjects fought for His Britannic Majesty. They were optimistic that they would be rewarded with freedom and decolonization of their country. In 1917, on behalf of the British Government Sir Richard Winfred, a cabinet minister, wrote to Sol Plaatje, the Secretary of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC). He said,
“At the close of war we shall do all in our power to help you regain that justice and freedom to which as loyal British subjects your people [Africans] are justly entitled.” (Presidential Address 8th Annual Conference of the South African Native National Congress, 6 May 1919)
It is puzzling in the superlative degree how in Kenya Jomo Kenyatta and other freedom fighters were imprisoned and so many Kenyans had to die before their country was returned to them by Britain considering the above utterances of British officials. It is mind-boggling to understand how Britain never fulfilled its promises with regard to the decolonization of Africans in South Africa even after Sharpeville and Soweto massacres where Africans died demanding their land and the right to proper education.
How did a British colonial parliament have the power of imprisoning Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe in Robben Island without even a mock trial and have in its record the “Sobukwe Clause”? How did the African people in South Africa end up being the only ones “negotiating” their freedom not with Britain? How is it that South Africa is the only British colony that was not decolonised by Britain when it had been a British colony?
How deep is European racism? To this day, Africans in “New South Africa” are still land dispossessed. And the national liberation of the African people was at the end of the day reduced into the dustbin of “apartheid” when it was clearly fundamentally colonial, by all standards of international law.
Colonialism wherever it came was illegal
International law reveals that colonial settlers cannot acquire the country of an indigenous people by conquest or merely because they have lived in it for a long time. Here is an example to illustrate this point. The Chinese territory of Macao was occupied by the Portuguese in 1549. The colonial power settled its inhabitants and claimed this territory as its own. The Peoples’ Republic of China rejected this Portuguese colonial assertion.
It claimed Macao as its own territory in international law. Macao was restored to China on 20 December 1999. China demanded the same for Hong Kong which Britain had claimed as its own since 1842. This territory was to be restored to its rightful owners, the Peoples’ Republic of China in 1997.
In Africa the territories of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde Island, Angola and Mozambique were occupied and settled by the Portuguese colonial forces in 1440, 1482 and 1497 respectively.
The African liberation movements of these African countries refused to accept the Portuguese argument that because they had settled in these territories for a long time, they were entitled to their ownership, and usurp their African sovereignties.
When Portugal persisted in its illegal view, the national liberation movements of these territories –African Party of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde Island, FNLA, MPLA, UNITA in Angola -- resorted to armed struggle against Portuguese colonialism and imperialism. FRELIMO and COREMO did likewise in Mozambique.
Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde regained their independence 5 April 1975; Angola 11 November 1975; and Mozambique 25 June 1975. Guinea Bissau had been under Portuguese colonial rule by “conquest” for 533 years, Angola for 493 years and Mozambique for 475 years.
“It does not matter how long Europeans have been settlers here.”
The view that long colonial settlement does not transfer the land of the indigenous people to colonial invaders and aggressors was also articulated by India’s Representative in the United Nations Security Council. From 17 to 18 December 1961, India ordered her troops to seize the territories of Goa, Donao and Diu on the Indian subcontinent. On 18 December 1961, Portugal which had settled in these territories for over 400 years by conquest, asked the UN Security Council to act against the aggression of India and order India to withdraw from these territories forthwith.
Ambassador C.S. Jha for India submitted that, “This is a colonial question, in the sense that that part of our country is illegally occupied by right of conquest by the Portuguese. The fact that they [Portuguese] have occupied it for 450 years is of no consequence….
“I would like to put this matter very clearly before the Council, that Portugal has no sovereign right over this territory…since the whole occupation is illegal as an issue. It started in an illegal manner. It continues to be illegal today and it is even more illegal in the light of Resolution 1514 9(XXV). (987th meeting of the United Nations Security Council, 17 December 1961)
The American Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, led the Western countries – most of which like Portugal were colonialists and imperialists. They criticized India. But India was adamant on this matter. Sri Lanka, Liberia and Egypt vigorously supported India’s position as being correct in international law.
The long settlement of colonialists in South Africa by force of arms has not passed any right to them to own this African land at the expense of its rightful owners. It does not matter how long Europeans have been settlers here. Azania remains the land of African people by right of first occupation on this continent of Africa and by divine design and plan.
Colonial Deception That a Colony Can be “Independent”
There were all kinds of colonial tricks to deceive the world that racist colonial South Africa was an “independent state.” For example it was argued that South Africa’s membership of the League of Nations was proof that South Africa was not a colony.
This was deliberate dishonesty. Article 1(2) of the League of Nations stipulated the conditions for membership. It provided that a state or colony could by a two-thirds majority vote of members of the League of Nations be admitted into membership of this League. In fact also the Union of South Africa 1909 Act to constitute the union of the four British colonies as South Africa declared that “The Union shall have full powers and authority within the limits of the colonies…” India, a British colony, was a member of both the League of Nations in 1919 and of the United Nations in 1945.
This applies to the Philippines which was an American colony. India became independent on 15 August 1947. South Africa has not even got the date when it could be said to have been given official independence by Britain. South Africa also signed and ratified The Statute Of Permanent Court Of international Justice of 1921. So did India, another then British colony.
It is not surprising that the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), an African liberation movement, easily got South Africa expelled from the United Nations and its international status as “state” in international law terminated.
Instead, the United Nations granted the PAC a UN observer status. PAC shared that status with its sister organization, the ANC. The ANC, of course, had played no role in the fight to expel South Africa from the United Nations -- since it held that South Africa was a “sovereign state.”
Africans have no land in South Africa because some leaders have misled them on the political history of their country and also on how colonialists manipulated international law. Let me close this discussion with short quotations from three wise men:
“One who wants to create a future must not forget the past”, Dr. Muziwakhe Lembede a great scholar, lawyer, political scientist, philosopher and shining star of the Congress Youth League in South Africa.
“Until the lions have their own history, the history of the hunt will glorify the hunters.” Prof. Chinua Achebe that prolific African writer.
A Pan Africanist scholar and renowned historian in the Diaspora, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, affirms this wisdom and truth when says, “History is a clock that tells a people their historical time of the day. It is a compass that people use to locate themselves on the map of human geography. A people’s history tells them what they have been, where they are now more importantly, where they still must go.”
Dr. Motsoko Pheko is a historian and veteran of the South Afrian liberation struggle. He has written many books. He is a former representative of the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations as well as a former Member of the South African Parliament.