Reparations in South Africa 🌍

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South Africa is exploring redistribution of land

Yesterday, South Africa’s parliament voted to move forward a motion that would allow for seizure of land without compensation. The ruling African National Congress has promised land reform that would seize land from white South Africans and transfer ownership to black South Africans.

Justice for a post-colonial state or modern discrimination?

South Africa’s past, of course, is scarred by colonization, exploitation and institutional racial discrimination. White South Africans still control three-quarters of the country’s farmland, despite being less than 10% of the population. One South African politician assured his countrymen that no one would lose his or her home – but stressed that “now is a time for justice”.



The anti land distribution side points out that there is dissent within the South African political class about whether redistributing wealth is the right course of action. Many articles do not argue with the need for land redistribution, but do argue that current landowners should be compensated for seized land. Some coverage from American outlets, though, highlight the racial dimension of the story: arguing that this move amounts to blacks illegally taking land from whites.

The pro land distribution side stresses South Africa’s history of racial violence and discrimination, highlighting horrors of the past – and the indignities of the modern economic disparities between races in South Africa – as arguments for land reform.


Is land redistribution the right move?

The premise is anti-capitalist: land distribution strips ownership rights from individuals who did not, necessarily, commit any offense. Land distribution is associated with Marxists and Communists: it’s what Castro did in Cuba, and what launched a generation of pro-capitalist, conservative Cuban-Americans in the US. But, South Africa did suffer under colonization and Apartheid – and its economic stratification is mismatched compared to its demographics. Redistribution seems to be justifiable, but not without compensation.

 

Meanwhile in the states...

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