Despite only making up 8% of South Africa’s population, much of the economy is still controlled by the nation’s white population. In fact, 72% of all farmland is owned by white South Africans. Some South African politicians have exploited the economic frustrations of many black South Africans by attributing their struggles to the success of their white counterparts. According to the BBC, between April 2016 and March 2017, 74 farmers were murdered, up from 58 the previous year.
More than two decades after the end of white rule, the South African Parliament recently voted to seize farmland from white farmers without compensation. In fact, an astonishing 241 legislators voted in favor of so-called land reform, while only 83 opposed it. The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, claims that the transition of land ownership will be handled peacefully and without damaging the economy. However, the parliamentary committee has until August 30 to analyze a constitutional amendment before officially enacting the legislation.
Supporters of land redistribution use historical colonization to justify such a radical measure, insisting that it will empower black South Africans. However, critics of the bill rightfully state that none of the white farmers today were ever colonizers themselves; therefore, the government would be punishing innocent people.
There are also economic concerns about the measure. In 1980, Zimbabwe officially passed land reform following the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement with the United Kingdom, attempting to fairly redistribute land between the nation’s white and black residents. This reform was initially enacted on a voluntary buying-and-selling basis. But in the late 1990s, Prime Minister Tony Blair ended the agreement with the United Kingdom and began seizing land from white farmers without compensation. As of 2013, every white farm in the country had been expropriated or confirmed for redistribution.
In 1997, Zimbabwe had the fastest growing economy in all of Africa. Today, its economy has the slowest growth. Additionally, after being known for having among the richest farmland in southern Africa, nearly half of its country’s residents are now malnourished. As of 2005, the country produced one-third of its tobacco production in 2000, when it was the world’s sixth-largest producer of the crop. Today, the per capita income in the nation has fallen by approximately 15% since the Lancaster House Agreement.
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