Hundreds of residents attended one of the public hearings on expropriation without compensation, which was held at the Friends of God Church in Goodwood. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Mr President,

I am a 79-year-old Afrikaner, Caucasian umkhulu, white ntate, boer, whatever words they may choose to describe an old South African of primarily German, Dutch and French descent. At least from my mother’s side, my ancestors have been here from more than three-and-a-half centuries.

I am by all standards a South African, sir, knowing allegiance to no other nation on Earth.

I have, as far back as I can remember, never condoned the ill-treatment of anybody of whatever race, creed or belief and I do not intend such to be part of my character for as long God wishes me to remain on this Earth.

I, for one, have never stolen anyone’s land and none of my progenitors have ever driven anybody from a patch of ground in order to farm there.

Very few have been actual landowners to begin with. Some were builders or teachers or had other professions. Many worked for farmers and did it by the sweat of their brows.

Indeed, sir, the situation in South Africa is not much different from what happened in the US, where people came from elsewhere over the sea and occupied land where indigenous people once roamed. This also true of many other countries.

It is, however, with great concern that we look upon the present situation in our country in which a policy is pursued called “land expropriation without compensation”.

It is in no way deemed proper in any civilised society in this day and age to still take anyone’s property away “just like that”, least of all in a leading nation such as the US.

Now most South Africans I am sure would love to correct all the wrongs of our tempestuous past because there are still millions in our country that need to be uplifted and be given their rightful place in the sun. But acts such as a modern-day seizure and confiscation of the “lands of our fathers” and the annulment of legal title rights in order to redistribute farms “to the poor” will never, never, ever be accepted by most truly democratic countries.

South Africa, to be sure, will eventually be back on the list of being called an apartheid state - now only practising apartheid in reverse.

But of course your present drive to correct wrongs should not lose its momentum because this is most necessary too.

We need this new initiative as much as we need air to breathe. Otherwise history may judge us for not heeding the new cries of our beloved country’s impoverished masses.

What I, in the end, would earnestly want to suggest, sir, is that the whole issue should be renamed “the New Ubuntu Initiative for a Most Just South African Society and the New Drive Removing the Remaining Obstacles to True Equality”. Call it the Ubuntufied New Initiative to True Equality, for short UNITE.

For putting the emphasis on “land expropriation without compensation” does not the echo our spirit of ubuntu that inspired the world when apartheid ended in 1994.

The message should be put to the ANC for the rectification of its call and be put to the world without any further delay, please.

Land redistribution should be the absolute focal point – not taking away, but giving. If there are “takings” needed, let them be taken in a predominant inclination towards unification. The world should not be reading this initiative wrong.

Yours,

Ollie Olwagen

* Olwagen was a senior Afrikaans magazine journalist.