Newspaper headlines often scream “illegal miners” and “land grabbers” and last week was no different with the events surrounding the trapped miners at Langlaate. Given the history of colonialism and the brutality with which colonialists stole African land and mines, Mxolisi Ka Nkomonde asks: who exactly are the illegal miners and land grabbers?
Colonialism in South Africa took an extremely violent turn after the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886 where ancient mines that Africans had been exploiting for centuries came into the hands of British settlers. This natural wealth led to a mass migration of criminals of German Jewish origin with British connections, later dubbed Randlords who include Beit, Oppenheimer, Barnato and Menell.
These criminals had mercenaries such as Jameson who used violence to get their hands on the gold deposits for their funders, later called “investors” with the Rothchild banking dynasty based in London being the major funder.
After the indigenous African population and the Dutch settlers were killed en masse and others sent to concentration camps for the gold in the so called Anglo Boer war, the criminal syndicate had a problem of labour. The British settlers were unskilled to work on the mines.
The British together with their Dutch puppets who included the likes of Louis Botha and Jan Smuts decided that the African population must be removed from ancestral lands in order to induce poverty and force the Africans to work in the mines and the farms which had already been stolen over the last 200yrs. This culminated in the Land Act of 1913.
In the past week there were cases of “land grabs” and “illegal” mining around Johannesburg where Africans have no land for settlement and lack the means to make a living and are therefore forced to engage in these activities.
What bothers me is that Africans in Africa are called “land grabbers” and Africans who are forced to go into dangerous mines are called “illegal miners” while the real land grabbers and illegal miners are called residents, investors, entrepreneurs and industrialists.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation recently delivered a report called the National Income Dynamics Study which indicates that only 15% of the South African population can be regarded as middle class and middle class according to this study, is a monthly expenditure of between R2920 and R10 678 per capita. This means more than half of the South African population can barely put food on the table. These miners and land occupants are just a symptom of a larger problem which goes back decades and rooted in the criminality of colonialism.
The post 1994 government has failed to address the real problems of colonialism and apartheid but decided to create new faces for colonial plundering in the name of Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment while everything colonial remains intact for the Black majority. Landlessness is rife and is accompanied by the evil twins of unemployment and poverty. The Black Condition will not be changed by the current neoliberal project which has actually worsened the lives of millions since 1996.