By Pinky Khoabane
In a radio interview this morning, President of COPE, Mosiuoa Lekota made rather startling revelations which put the history of land dispossession at 1913 when the Land Act was passed. This is a clear falsification of history meant to suit a particular agenda which can only protect those who stole the land. His contention is seemingly that proving land ownership prior to 1913 would be difficult although he hastened to say that those who could should. This is the kind of falsification akin to that used in the empty land theory which claims that South Africa was an empty land when Europeans arrived despite archeological and historical evidence to the contrary.
WC Holden in his book, The Past and Future of the Kaffir Race, used the theory to legitimise European settlement in South Africa and the dispossession of Africans of their land. http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/empty-land-myth
Lekota was speaking on the current debate on expropriation of land without compensation. He took us on a history of a people from around the world that came to South Africa “not for nefarious means” but as slaves and who through “their sheer hard work” amassed land and title deeds. His argument is that these people and their descendants cannot be removed from their land and if they are, it certainly cannot be without compensation. He used among others, the story of Cecil Rhodes who came to South Africa because of “ill health” and later, through his own accord, skill and hard work started digging for diamonds from which he became the multi-millionaire that he is today. He amassed vast lands some which he donated to good causes, Lekota says. He mentioned in particular, the University of Capetown which is built on Rhodes’s land and questioned whether that land would be expropriated.
His views that South Africa needed to “think” seriously on the land issue to avoid “unnecessary bloodshed” was first mooted in the National Assembly during the debate last week.
Lekota’s views brought home what was so inept about CODESA but also and perhaps more importantly, the ongoing tragedy of the deliberate falsification of history. The COPE leader opted for the best strategy of falsification – vagueness to his assertions. He didn’t offer the historical, legal and socio-economic context within which he premised his debate. We cannot for example, ignore the laws in this country that sought to advance white people over blacks and strip the latter of their dignity and deny them equal opportunities to everything including wealth.
His is a campaign to negate history – a phenomenon which dates back centuries.
Through his work, Senegalese “historian, physicist and philosopher” Cheick Anta Diop, meticulously traces and documents African history and places Egypt at the centre of the history of civilisation. By so doing, he refutes many ideas previously presented by other researchers, archeologists and historians. He attributes the spread of the falsified history within the context of a spread in imperialism which helped drown out the “historical truth”.
In the South African context, the colonial and apartheid state propagated the myth of the empty land theory through the colonial and apartheid curriculum and history books as true and through their propaganda machinery which included the department of information. Various versions of this falsified history have been repeated over the years even in newspaper articles in mainstream media. But it was perhaps Dr Pieter Mulder that resurrected the myth when in response to President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nations Address (SONA) in 2014 said:
“Sir, Africans in particular never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa. The Bantoe- speaking people moved from the equator down while the white people moved from the Cape up to meet each other at the Kei River. There is sufficient proof that there were no Bantoe-speaking people in the Western Cape and North-western Cape. These parts form 40% of South Africa’s land surface.”
In the ongoing campaign to place the arrival of Europeans in South Africa of Europeans at the same time as the African, we often hear the argument that the San ought to complain about the arrival of blacks. The CEO of the FW De Klerk Foundation, Dave Steward responding to Zuma’s January 8 Statement of 2015 that the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town was the beginning of all the trouble, wrote an article in Pretoria News: “Might the San – who once occupied the whole of South Africa – not also be able to complain that the arrival of blacks in South Africa was a disaster for them?” http://www.iol.co.za/pretoria-news/opinion/excoriating-whites-not-the-way-to-go-1806026
Lekota has sadly joined the right-wing voices which seek to re-write history.