South Africa has seized its first farm - in the clearest indication yet that it is bowing to growing pressure to redistribute land to majority blacks.To refresh, consider the current state Zimbabwe is in. After losing the protection of the Lancaster Agreement at the end of the eighties that had guaranteed a market price for land bought up by the Zimbabwean government, white farmers have watched as the rapacious Mugabe essentially confiscates their farms (among the most productive in all of Africa). Not only has Zimbabwe forced land sale transactions to be executed by whites, paying them about ten cents on the dollar for the land, the nation's staggering inflation accentuates the whites' loss tremendously. Estimated at well over 1000%, that renders the ten cents on the dollar worth only one penny (liberally) on the dollar a year later. If you have means of production, you're largely protected from inflation. If those means are replaced by a perpetually devalued currency, you're hosed.
Black pressure groups and trade unions have been threatening to begin invading farms unless the government moved quickly to redistribute land.
Among many of South Africa's 50,000-plus white commercial farmers, this first land expropriation by President Thabo Mbeki's government echoes Robert Mugabe's violent land seizures in neighbouring Zimbabwe where at least 4,000 farmers have been evicted from their land, leading to the collapse of that country's economy.
What does Ian Smith's Rhodesia have to show for it today? An unemployment rate of 80%, an AIDS rate of 25%, staggering GDP shrinkage of 5-7% per year, and conflict with the West that has put President Mugabe in a desperate situation. Recipients of the 'transfer program' have not even come close to keeping production up at the rate whites did:
By confiscating the white-owned commercial farms, the government transformed a country that was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa into a net food importer [my emphasis].That is depressing. Sixty-six percent of Zimbabwe's workforce is employed in agricultural but the country cannot even feed itself. Zimbabwe is poorer now than it was at independence almost three decades ago, after having endured eight years of civil war and twice as many years of international sanctions. No wonder Smith, now in his late eighties, remains so defiantly opposed to Mugabe in spite of the ruler's threats to have him arrested. I wonder what the proponents of black African self-rule have to say about this?
And despite good rains there is every prospect of another deficit over the coming season, our correspondent says...
Tobacco used to be Zimbabwe's major export earner but production has fallen from 237m kg in 2000 to 73m kg last year.
South African President Mbeki has had favorable things to say about Mugabe's land reforms in the past. His government is now putting them into practice:
The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights said in a statement yesterday that the first expropriation order of the gigantic 25,200-hectare farm owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa (ELCSA) in South Africa's Northern Cape Province came into effect on 26 January. The government will take full possession of the farm for resettlement next month. The government has paid £2.1m for the land although the ELCSA had wanted more than £5m which it says is the true value of the land.So the church is getting about 35-40 cents on the dollar. Although they only comprise one-tenth of the population, whites control 90% of prime farmland. There is still a lot to go around. Originally, in an attempt to keep investment from fleeing South Africa, the land acquisitions were to be voluntarily bought up by the government and redistributed to blacks. But even as the main opposition party argues that over 4 million hectares (about 15,000 square miles) of land is being put on the market each year, the deals aren't coming quickly (or cheaply) enough. So the government has begun to force the sales.
With an IQ differential of more than two standard deviations between white and black South Africans, not to mention the experience and organization white commercial farmers currently enjoy, land productivity is going to suffer substantially, just as it has in neighboring Zimbabwe.
Although it is tempting to see the aggression against these Evangelicals as another example of ecumenicism crashing on the shoals of reality, there is a universal lesson for us to take from it. When the ethnic or racial group controlling the economy does not form a place's numerical majority, the outcome is predictable. From the Tutsis in Rwanda to Israelis in the Middle East, from the Chinese in the the Philippines to people of European descent in South America, the story is more or less the same. The disadvantaged majority wants to take from the affluent minority and give to itself. Democracy, that the neocons are so keen on exporting, expedites the process.
Europe should stop taking in Muslims, and the US must put an end to massive Hispanic immigration. Why would either of us want to bring about a Robin Hood turn of events, willfully morphing our developed homes into third-world slums?
Looking down the road, I wonder if we'll be willing to take in displaced South African whites as 'economic refugees', since we've recently agreed to take in 60,000 Bhutanese and 7,000 Iraqi refugees. Or will other African countries see white farmers as a lucrative asset to be courted? Mozambique has already begun to do this, and the dividends sound encouraging for the economy there.