Divide and rule

Published: Sunday 15 February 2004

Winning vote banks through land redistribution is South African President Thabo Mbeki's new election strategy. Similar to Robert Mugabe's land acquisition drive in Zimbabwe, Mbeki is winding his victory path around the lands of white farmers.

The changes to Mbeki's land restitution law will be implemented in February. The amendments that are meant to hasten the so-called land reform process would actually usher in a sort of a reverse apartheid. The changes will allow the minister of land affairs to expropriate land without a court order and without the landowners' consent, making the law quite similar to Zimbabwe's Land Acquisition Act. The act deprives farmers of legal recourse once their land has been confiscated.

Not surprisingly, the country's white farmers, who are reeling under a devastating drought, have greeted the move with strong protests. They are quite suspicious of Mbeki's move since much of the government land has yet to be transferred to the blacks. They feel it could be a way to polarise the vote bank as Mugabe had done, to shift focus from the real issues facing the country such as poverty and natural disasters.

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