South Africa began implementing its controversial policy to appropriate large-scale white-owned farms, which critics claim is a land seizure while supporters see it as economic justice. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his intent to go forward with this move earlier this year, which was originally proposed by Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters radical opposition party, and the state just started to take property from white owners without compensation in the cases where negotiations between the two parties failed. This was in response to two game famers in Limpopo province refusing to part with their land after the government only offered them 10% of the value that they were asking for.
It also comes after South African media circulated what they claimed was a leaked list of the 195 farms on the expropriation list, which reportedly caused some of these land owners to panic and unsuccessfully try to sell their property.
The issue of land reform has long been a very contentious one in post-Apartheid South Africa because the white minority still owns the vast majority of the country's farmland, which they assert has rightfully been theirs for generations while their opponents believe that it was acquired as part of a racist colonial-era land grab that needs to be reversed as soon as possible. Something similar happened in neighboring Zimbabwe at the turn of the century, but it disastrously contributed to that nation's economic collapse and attracted strong international condemnation from the West, with the new government of President Mnangagwa actually trying to entice these same farmers to return.
South Africa's white farmers warn that their country is about to make a similar mistake but that the stakes are much higher in this economically dynamic nation of 55 million than the smaller one to the north that's nearly a third of the size and has a stagnant economy.
The farmers also fear for their lives because they believe that they've been targeted for decades by criminals and that the government is now complicit in committing crimes against them on a national level. So scared are some of these individuals that a few of them have visited Russia and discussed relocating there en mass in the event that the state went forward with its land appropriation plans, as it's evidently begun to do. Still, some observers are skeptical that the farmers will migrate, let alone to Russia, even if their land is taken from them, though it remains to be seen how they'll react once this policy enters into full swing.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Brett Macdonald, businessman who facilitates trade between South Africa and Russia and Kwanele Mkheswa, Johannesburg-based financial consultant and political commentator from Nkayi, Southern Zimbabwe.
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