Whose Land is it anyway?

by Iswamo Kapalu

The issue of “illegal land grabs” has begun to come up in our national dialogue recently.

In January 2015 the African National Congress-led government of Tshwane accused the Economic Freedom Fighters of “perpetuating anarchy” by encouraging illegal land grabs in the world’s third largest metro.

It seems however, if recent reports are to be believed, that shifting political tides have caused the ruling party to adopt tactics they once described in such unkind terms in the very same Metro.

On Friday, reports began to filter in that the newly minted Democratic Alliance-led governments in Tshwane and Johannesburg were victims of an ANC-orchestrated plot to undermine their new governments through encouraging these “land grabs.”

According to an investigation by The Times, there might be at least some substance to these reports.

Whether it turns out that these reports are true or not, what is of grave concern is the way that the poor are used over and over again to settle political scores in South African politics. Many claim to speak for them but there never seems to be any concerted effort to materially improve their conditions.

The wealthy and the political elite wear their lives and struggle as costumes in the theatre of South African politics but the poor themselves are quickly forgotten when the cameras go off.

The result is an unfortunate class of citizens whose lives and desperation make them susceptible to empty promises and political games.

 They are group of men and women who must become “illegal occupiers” and “illegal miners” to survive in this land. A land whose founding document assures them that South Africa belongs to them. The same land founded on a dream that “the people shall share in the country’s wealth” and that “the land shall be shared among those who work it.”

And while every voice claims to speak for them, the poor must surely look at their empty and calloused hands and ask themselves, “Whose land is it anyway?” Because outside the promises and games, nothing tells them it’s theirs.

Mr Iswamo Kapalu

Iswamo Kapalu is a young South African of Zambian origin. He holds an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and currently works as a researcher, writer and social justice advocate at the Jesuit Institute.

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