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You’re buying stolen land, Mr Branson

Dear Mr Branson,

My name is Andile Mngxitama. I am the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) commissar for land and agrarian revolution. Our movement got 1.1-million votes in the recently held elections in South Africa and will be represented in Parliament, with the real prospect of becoming the government in our lifetime.

I write to alert you to an illegal activity you may unwittingly have been part of. Our media reports that you have just bought yourself a 40 hectare wine farm in Franschhoek.

Sir, you have bought stolen property. The consequence of your witting or unwitting participation in this illegal transaction is that the EFF policy of land expropriation without compensation may, in the near future, affect your investment adversely.

It behooves me to warn you now so that you do not plead ignorance on the day of historical redress, which may not be too far off.

You may not know, sir, the history of land dispossession in our country, which renders all land stolen property. Basically, there are two idioms that govern the land dispute in our country. The dominant idiom since 1652 is that of the settler, who imposed it upon the native majority through force of arms. The result of this conquest is that, about 350 years later, the native majority is landless and only about 40?000 white families own up to 80% of our land.

To make this settler idiom clearer, let me give you an analogy. Basically, it’s as though I came to your house with a marauding armed gang and forced you and your family out of your house into the coldness of the streets. Then, I wrote a piece of paper, called it a title deed and put my name on it; this paper I sent to the gang headquarters as evidence of my ownership of your house.

The title deed you have is a piece of paper written by the original land thieves to give them illegal dominion over property that doesn’t belong to them. The title deed here, sir, is a pathetic attempt by the land usurper to legalise an act of illegality.

Now this settler idiom competes with the native idiom, which holds that “ityala aliboli molato ha o bole”. If I may attempt a translation, I would say it means that an act of evil doesn’t erode with the passing of time. In short, a debt doesn’t rot. So, from our perspective as natives, it doesn’t matter how many times the stolen land changes hands – it remains stolen property.

I also need to bring to your attention a historical fact you may not be aware of. The African people who occupied the land you have bought were the Khoi and the San.

The land thieves, after dispossessing them of their land, found themselves in a dilemma: they were stricken by guilt. So, to make this problem go away, they committed even a bigger crime. They undertook a genocide against the legitimate landowners. They literally disappeared the landowners so that the crime of land theft could be erased. This genocide has not been accounted for, nor have reparations been paid. You will be surprised to know that no acknowledgement of the crime has been made.

As you can see, sir, we are a nation with deep problems – all of them linked to the original land theft. I do not write these words lightly. I recognise the difficulty this may cause you and the inconvenience it invites. But I’m sure you will agree that there is something fundamentally wrong when stolen goods are sold in full view of the legitimate owners.

Our pain defies words. The descendants of the original landowners have been reduced to slaves. You may not know this but farmworkers who work those vineyards earn as little as R1?500 a month. That’s a mere $145. This is a legislated form of slavery by our democratic government.

The EFF has called for a R5?000 minimum wage for farmworkers. It’s not much but would go a long way towards improving the conditions of our people on these lands.

I believe I have brought the most important information to your attention. What you do with it is really between you and your God. Those buying land in our country can no longer plead ignorance. Now you can’t say you didn’t know.

Yours sincerely,

Commissar Andile Mngxitama

Andile Mngxitama is an EFF MP.

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