South African farm land seizures are totalitarian | The Triangle

South African farm land seizures are totalitarian

Photograph courtesy of Kate Holt/AusAID at Wikimedia Commons

Outrage has sparked over the new government decisions made by the South African government to confiscate land illegally from white farm owners and to redistribute it to the black community. Unsurprisingly, this has not been covered on mainstream news sources.


South Africa is largely self-sufficient when it comes to trading and food. The many great farmlands have been enough to keep the nation as satisfied as possible, with the percent of population experiencing hunger steadily declining over the past decade (from 30 percent of all individuals in 2002 to seven percent in 2014). This is good — South Africa is not like some of its neighbors who sport large numbers of people living in starvation and dying from lack of food.


However, a government audit in 2017 found white people own 72 percent of the private farmland. It is unknown exactly of how long the families have owned the farms, but it is speculated that some trace back to the original Dutch colonization of the Cape. Out of the whole South African population, 8.9 percent of people are white, according to a 2011 census. Thus, a minority of people own the majority of the farmland.


The farm owners are feeding the people of South Africa, offering prices that are steadily making the food more readily available to the people who desperately need it. However, this is not enough. In 1994, the South African government passed the 25th amendment to their constitution to allow the redistribution of land in a fair manner due to past oppression. It reads, “the right to property, limited in that property may only be expropriated under a law of general application (not arbitrarily), for a public purpose and with the payment of compensation.”

This was an amendment to allow the redistribution of farmland on a “willing seller, willing buyer” motto with the cost as the market price of the land. This is disputable, but not harmful or immoral. Now, the South African government has a grand scheme to take land from white farm owners, regardless of the law. A list of almost 200 farms to be seized was released, with the first of the farms already being attempted at seizure. In April, the government came to take the land of a farm owner, offering $2.3 million for a property worth more than $20 million. This is directly against the constitution and is just the beginning of the land seizures.

The African National Congress Chairman, Gwede Mantashe, is heading the political activism for the farm seizures. He states, “You shouldn’t own more than 25,000 acres of land. … Therefore if you own more it should be taken without compensation.”

This is totalitarianism at its finest. When Zimbabwe tried the same act in the 1980s, of forcibly removing farmers from their properties, many people starved and the economy was ruined for decades. Mao tried the same thing in China with his Great Leap Forward campaign. He took the land away from successful farm owners, under the presupposition that they were only rich because the landowners stole from the poor. The land was redistributed to the people, who did not have the knowledge the old farmers held. This directly led to a food shortage and tens of millions of people died of starvation. The reason farm owners stay rich is because they are successful. Removing them removes the food, leading straight to starvation and death. History proves that this is not only economically infeasible but also morally despicable as it results in many millions of people starving to death.

Mantashe says that if they can’t do it legally now, they will make it legal in the future.


After all, if the government makes it legal, it is automatically moral. That is not how it works. Despite this, parties need a two-thirds vote to make a new amendment, and people speculate that the ANC along with some other parties can do it. Mantashe said, “This is why we say, to give you the tools, to revisit the constitution so that you have a legal tool to do it”

The process is in the works. It can happen, and people are scared that it will.

When the government turns to totalitarian practices it is proven that thousands, if not millions, of people will die, as seen in Mao’s China and countless other regimes. This is what is happening in South Africa, and I fear for the people living there. How many times can this mistake be made before it is universally realized that this form of government power is indisputably evil? Do we need another wake up call, or is it early enough to stop it?