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Q: I heard someone say White South Africans never stole any land?

Updated: Jun 28, 2020


Imagine this, a young Afrikaner child grows up in the 70s in the suburb of Triomf. He looks at his fathers house and says “My father worked hard for his house and bought it fair and square – he works harder and is smarter than Mr. Ndlovu that works in the garden and doesn’t own a house”. Meanwhile, the apartheid government had bulldozed Sophiatown many years before – shipped off the black people to homelands and built the white’s only Triomf on top of it…

To refute claims that no land was stolen by whites in South Africa, one can easily look at examples in our recent history without even going back as far as colonial times:

“Sophiatown in Johannesburg (1955-63) and District Six in Cape Town (beginning in 1968) were among the vibrant multi-racial communities that were destroyed by government bulldozers when these areas were declared "white." Blacks were forcibly removed to distant segregated townships, sometimes 30 kilometers (19 miles) from places of employment in the central cities. In Cape Town, many informal settlements were destroyed. In one incident over four days in 1985, Africans resisted being moved from Crossroads to the new government-run Khayelitsha township farther away; 18 people were killed and 230 were injured. “

Footage is from TRC Episode 29 - 04 (SABC)

“Forced removals in rural areas affected even more people than forced removals in urban areas. Unfortunately, rural removals have often been ignored or forgotten – although not by the communities who were subjected to this injustice. The government referred to black communities living on land designated for whites by the term ‘black spots’. It didn’t matter if they owned this land or were tenants on white-owned farms. In line with the Apartheid government’s “Separate Development” plan the people who lived in ‘black spots’ were pushed into designated “Homelands” which they had sometimes never seen before, under chiefs who didn’t necessarily rule them before.” From 1960 to 1983, the apartheid Government forcibly moved 3.5 million Black South Africans in one of the largest mass removals of people in modern history.

“Life in the Homelands was extremely difficult. Although in theory they were self-governing, in reality they were ruled by brutal and corrupt partners of the Apartheid government. Chiefs were paid by the government, and if a chief opposed the government they were replaced by a more co-operative one. People in Homelands were forced to live and farm under tough measures known as ‘betterment’ schemes, which involved limits on the number of cattle they could own, loss of shared grazing land, and forced moves from scattered homesteads to villages. This made it much harder to make a living from the land. Moreover, the land was very often infertile, and as more and more people packed into the Homelands (because of the forced removals, for example), soil erosion and over-farming meant they were even less capable of feeding their inhabitants. There was great poverty and very few job opportunities, and so most people who could, left as soon as possible. The Homelands became dumping grounds for people who could not be used by white South Africa – the very old and the very young.”

“By the time of the advent of the new South Africa, about 17 000 statutory measures had been issued to segregate and control land division, with 14 different land control systems in South Africa” – WJ du Plessis Understanding where we are coming from as a nation is an important step on the way to correcting the injustices of apartheid. All parties need to come to the table. Denial only makes things worse.

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