WORKING THE LAND: A distribution of wealth is not all that is needed if South Africa is to thrive  there has to be a distribution of land, too. This enrichment, argues the writer, have a overwhelmingly positive impact on the country, creating unity and a happier population by large. Picture: AP

The phone rang and on the other side of the line was a friend who immediately told me he had just returned from a hunting trip and that entrails were cooking on his stove. He wondered if I could join him for a treat.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world. The last time I ate wild animal entrails was as a teenager hunting in the 1960s.

There were four of us around the table facing three large dishes – one containing livers, lungs, hearts, and so on; another, tripe and intestines; and the third, stiff porridge. As we tucked in, the story of the “hunt” came out, and I was not impressed. His was not a hunt in the true sense of the word. Nevertheless, the invitation was appreciated.

He did not lead a pack of hounds into the bush to track and catch prey or carry a rifle and trudge a forest for hours looking for an animal to shoot. That’s at least my understanding of a hunt.

From Polokwane, he and another man had driven 110km west to Rebone, where a number of game farms exist, only to discover that after the murder of one of their own, the farmers in the area no longer allowed blacks to enter their properties.

On information gleaned from the locals, they drove another 70km towards the Botswana border where they had to communicate with the relevant farm authorities as they passed one security checkpoint after another.

They finally entered this establishment, deep in the bush, with farmhouses, guest accommodation, a restaurant, a huge cold storage room and more.

Rich hunters from here and abroad visit the farm to shoot their desired animal for fun. All they want from the dead animal is its head or skin, which they would display somewhere as a trophy for their exploits with a rifle.

Carcasses of wild pigs, kudus, antelopes, crocodiles and many others are stored in the cold room for those who would like to buy game meat for consumption.

Apparently, restaurants and hotels do come around to stock game meat for their businesses.

My friend bought full carcasses of a wild pig and a large antelope, from which he gave me portions to take home.

The entrails of all the animals are available “mahala” for anybody present when the carcasses are brought in for skinning and the removal of all the insides.

My friend got the entrails of several animals simply because he was there. Most entrails are thrown away or fed to carnivores in captivity elsewhere.

This “hunting” jaunt is pregnant with some of the contradictions of our society that just hit you between the eyes.

First, when a farmer is murdered, all blacks are barred from entering farms in the Rebone area.

That immediately tells you that whites own the land and “resentful” or “criminal” blacks murder them.

But the barring of all blacks from interaction with white people and doing business with them, implies further alienation among the different racial communities in the area.

It tells you that land ownership is still heavily skewed in favour of the white section of our population. This is in fact the fundamental contradiction bedevilling relations among communities in that area. It is a problem of the haves and the have-nots.

There was a big conference on social cohesion in Kliptown recently where a lot of lofty ideas were aired and debated by representatives of the government, political parties represented in Parliament, religious communities and civil society.

What does that conference mean to the community of Rebone? Is social cohesion possible without addressing the land ownership patterns? SA has a Gini coefficient of 0,68 and is the most unequal society in the world. This sees the Rebone phenomenon multiplying itself many times.

It is a danger we ignore at our peril, especially because it is complicated by our colonial past and negative racial dynamics.

Second, the spectacle of the rich from all over the globe venturing on to game farms to shoot animals just for thrills while poor people all around go hungry, provides another stark contradiction. The Rebone area, and indeed greater parts of Limpopo, is largely poor, with malnourished children who are starved of protein to build their bodies.

The poor communities have no access to the farms to hunt for meat and cannot even benefit from the entrails that are thrown away after the disembowelment of the shot-for-pleasure wild animals.

You need access to the farm before you can lay your hands on the insides of the carcasses.

Imagine the benefits that could accrue if there is an equitable racial ownership of land and a cohesive society in the area that could share the benefits of game farms. Wouldn’t we create a happier country in which we all have a stake?

Wouldn’t we be better able to avoid events such as the Marikana horror?

l Mosibudi Mangena is former minister of science technology, and a former leader of the Azanian People’s Organisation.