I have been given to understand that I "don't know diddly-squat about Africa", in the midst of a withering lecture about racism from, um, a conservative white South African expatriate. My sense of the absurd does not quite extend that far, but I do appreciate having my limits illuminated. Kind'a.
To rectify the holes in my knowledge left by 4-hours-shy-of-a-minor African Studies classes at UIUC (and you'd think my advisor, Professor Bokamba, would have mentioned this), I was gratified to see that today's MediaChannel.org | News Dissector Web Log covered the conference in SA, and current events there:
Yesterday, I visited the Landless Peoples Camp, where a few thousand black South Africans are meeting to plan their own march on the summit. Under apartheid, whites, who were the minority, controlled 87% of the land in this country. Those numbers have not changed radically and these people know it. The government fears more land seizures like the ones in neighboring Zimbabwe that have destabilized that society.
[. . .] After apartheid fell, the spies of the old regime were put in together with the intelligence operations of the liberation movement. It was an uneasy combination. This intelligence apparatus has not had much to worry about until now, but now they are anxious and antsy. The anti-globalization movement feels the government's gaze and resents the climate of intimidation. Last night I met a young woman who was hit by a police stun grenade and was burned while peacefully protesting. I was singing a song in an African language I didnt know, just humming along, she told me. and this grenade was lobbed at me without warning. She is now walking with a cane.
Nope, nothing new there. . .
Seizing land would, clearly, be a Very Bad Idea. Just as bad as it's turned out in Zimbabwe, although a sane judge has nullified at least some of the eviction orders.
On Wednesday the Zimbabwe High Court nullified eviction orders served on 54 white farmers as President Robert Mugabe ruled out any possibility of talks with the white landowners, telling them that they had no rights to control property in Zimbabwe.
The beleaguered white farmers have appealed for a meeting with Mugabe to discuss the seizures of their farms but Mugabe told state radio that there was "no room for talks" between him and the white farmers. He said the rights of the white farmers to own land in Zimbabwe were secondary to those of blacks.
"There is no room for talks, there is no room for negotiations because the real owners of this land are asserting their rights and reclaiming their land," Mugabe told a gathering in the southeastern town of Chiredzi.
"If you (whites) want to live with us, to farm alongside us, we, the rightful owners of our ancestral land, will carve out some land for you. But you cannot decide what you will have in our country," he said.
That we/you shit will be the death of us all, but it's almost a relief to see it expressed so openly.
South Africa is going to have to deal with the imbalance in land ownership at some point. Doing nothing is also dealing with it, but almost as bad as Mugabe's solution. Well, they can always take the US route to handling land-holding minorities.
The white people already have casinos, so they're halfway there.