The ‘stolen land’ denial

US President Donald Trump’s recent tweet, following the misinformed Fox News coverage by Tucker Carlson, of South Africa’s intention to expropriate land without compensation, was not motivated by the spirit of humanity or dignity.

“South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews –

Neither was the support Afriforum and the Freedom Front gave to Trump’s tweet “to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers”. [0]

The false allegation, frequently made by Afriforum, that South Africa’s white farmers are being “ethnically cleansed”, (AgriSA’s report demonstrates that farm murders have decreased to their lowest level in more than 20 years), has become a rallying point for far-right white-nationalists, both in South Africa and in the US.

The land debate in South Africa still evokes the refrain “whites never stole land, blacks came from north Africa”. Afriforum even goes so far as to deny that Apartheid was a crime against humanity. [1] Some “white” South Africans, especially those on the right, have a romanticized understanding of their own history on this continent. This is almost certainly a product of white nationalist apartheid education denial; apparently the land was empty when Europeans arrived to stake their land claims.

The question (for me) is not about ancestry or origin, but about a historical, legal policy of enforced dispossession, whereby one group of persons prohibited all other persons, on the basis of their skin colour, from owning land in the country of their birth.

Yes, in as much as “white” colonialist settlers, and their descendants, prohibited people of other ethnicities from owning land, land was stolen by “whites”!

No, we did not personally steal land, but we did benefit from almost 200 years of legislation passed by colonial Dutch and English governors, and Boer republics, which specifically prevented non-Europeans from owning land.

Some (there were many more before and after those mentioned here) of these statutes include a resolution [2] that prohibited non-burgers in the Transvaal from owning land, and denied Africans from having burger rights , a prohibition [3] against Indians in the Orange Free State from owning fixed property in designated areas of the republic, the Natives Land Act [4] which prohibited “blacks” from owning or renting land outside of designated reserves, and the notorious Group Areas Act [5], which established separate residential areas, based on race.

In the context of Parliament’s intention to review section 25 of the Constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation, what you might ask, is an appropriate response, by “white” South Africans to this historical legacy?

It simply cannot be denial! Apartheid was a crime against humanity. White South Africans benefited from that crime. In our response to this realisation, we must allow our conscience and actions to be guided by the spirit of humanity and dignity.


Note: The terms “white” and “black” are the product of a racially divisive political ideology. There is only one human species.



[0] We ‘played a role’ in Trump’s tweet, says AfriForum’s Roets
Citizen reporter 26 August 2018
Last Accessed 27 August 2018

[1] ​I don’t think apartheid was a crime against humanity – Afriforum’s Kriel
Mashadi Kekana 14 May 2018
Last Accessed 27 August 2018

Legislation mentioned:

[2] Resolution (159) 1855
“The Transvaal government adopted Resolution 159 on 18 June 1855 which prohibited anybody who was not a burgher from owning land. The Resolution specifically proscribes Africans from having burger rights.”

[3] Act 25 of 1891
“The Orange Free State government passed Act 25 in 1891. The Act withdrew the Natal Coolie Law of 1859 to discourage the settlement of Indians in the province, and prohibited them from owning fixed property in the Republic except in areas where the government designated them to live.”

[4] Act 27 of 1913
Natives Land Act. Prohibited blacks from owning or renting land outside designated reserves (approximately 7 per cent of land in the country).

[5] Group Areas Act (No: 41) 1950
“The Group Areas Act was passed into law in 1950. After its passing, the Act permitted the government to establish separate residential areas based on race. In terms of the Act Black or White South Africans were prohibited from buying property or living in area that had been proclaimed as an area for one racial group.”

Historical Sources:

List of Laws on Land Dispossession and Segregation
South African History Online
Last Accessed 25 August 2018

Chronology of Apartheid Legislation
Padraig O’Malley
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Last Accessed 25 August 2018


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