What good is land to an uneducated nation?

“MBERENGWA-Clutching her home-made hoe, her baby strapped on her back as she tills a small piece of land near her pole and dagga hut, which is her only home. 42-year-old Margaret Chirinda says she regrets the day she abandoned her original home at the height of Zimbabwe’s land reform program in 2000”-  The silent forced eviction of resettled farmers in Zimbabwe. Henry Matewu of Nehanda Radio.

According to Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Minister Joseph Made “The occupied farms were not being used productively, that is why government resolved to repossess the farms paving way for more determined indigenous farmers”

Land reform is not a simple transaction of evacuation and occupation. And these silent forced evictions that Nehanda Radio is reporting on, is the result of impulsive decisions. I don’t think ZANUPF thought this through. You cannot simply hand someone a farm without giving them the necessary tools and support to ensure that they will be able to sustain themselves. The violent land grabs were a haphazard decision that has come back to haunt ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe.

It is problematic that the government seems to think that shifting land from one owner to another will solve the problems of unproductivity. The problem is NOT the land; the land has sustained the people of Zimbabwe for years, even before independence. The problem is that the government has not provided these new landowners with the means to make the land work for them and In turn the greater Zimbabwe.

Many South Africans, have looked to Zimbabwe’s land reform program as an example of what we should work towards and what we can achieve. Again, many of them are marching full steam ahead clutching onto the idea of “taking back what is ours”. I get the sense that the EFF and other ordinary South Africans, are going to make the mistake that ZANUPF did.

Giving the black man land WILL NOT solve all his problems. I believe that there are more pressing issues that we need to deal with, before we can think of land reform.  What good will land do for an uneducated nation? I believe that until the black child has access to quality education and is given a levelled out playing field, nothing will change. When I say education, I don’t mean a formal education that requires a degree.

I will use myself as an example, I have a degree and soon I will have an honours degree in Journalism. But if Jacob Zuma came to my door right now and handed me a piece of land . I would be at a complete loss with all my education.  I would probably call my friends up and say “eyo party at my land”. But what happens after the party? I have this land, what do I do now?

This is the education that we need. Before we are simply handed this land (Or take it back, which seems to be the ‘proper’ term right now”) we need to have a plan, we need to know exactly what we’re going to do with this land. Because without the right tools and support, we will still have black people who own land, but are uneducated and are economically disadvantaged and that is no use to anybody. Especially themselves.

We need to teach our people how to sustain themselves; we need to teach them how to hold their own hand, because as we know the government isn’t always capable of doing that.  There are hundreds of unemployed graduates and matriculants in our country. Why can we not employ them to go out to the people and educate them. Imagine what a difference it would make, if someone could sit you down and say if you have a piece of land, you can A B C D with it, and this how you go about doing that. That doesn’t need a degree. There are people living in rural areas that have been farming all their lives; they don’t need a degree to teach their  sons and daughters how to farm. So how then is this education not enough?

I could be wrong though, perhaps I don’t understand this whole issue in its entirety and maybe that’s why there are so many gaps in my mind.  Maybe there really is a way to implement land reform in such a way that it will advantage the previously disenfranchised majority, without victimizing everybody else. We must remember that while we are focusing on giving land to the black man, there are people of all races that don’t have land either, what are we doing about them?

South Africa is not ready for a land reform; our people don’t have the education and support they need to sustain themselves. How many South Africans are living on government grants? If we have not been able to make our people independent in twenty years, what is going to change by handing someone a piece of land?

Its very easy to do things the wrong way. From our neighbours (Zimbabwe) we know that we can get up one morning and go on a crusade of violent land grabs. We have a police service that is highly capable of that. But where is the merit in that? Sometimes it takes longer to do things the right way, but it is better to be patient in a pursuit of sustainable change, rather than immediate change, that in fact changes nothing.

Honestly, we don’t need land right now. We need schools, we need text books for our students, we need fully functional hospitals, we need a judicial system that works for everyman on the street. We need to be part of a working economy, we need jobs, we need police that protect us, not victimize us. We need justice, and a piece of land is not justice.

What good is a piece of land to an oppressed woman? Will land earn me acknowledgment and respect? And I don’t mean from the man in Sandton sitting in the corner office, I mean from the man next door to me. If I have land, will I be able to walk the streets freely, and not fear being raped and victimized?  Probably not. Then what good is your land to me? Keep it, I don’t need it.

I never thought I’d ever see the day where I would say look to Zimbabwe as an example. But what do you know? The day has come.

It is one thing to have your heart in the right place, and I commend everybody who wants justice for people who have been previously oppressed, but in your search for justice, do not oppress these people even further. Do not sell them dreams that you will snatch away from them, when they least expect it.

Don’t lead me “to the promised land” when there is nothing in that land for me. But if you can sit with me, and show me where we are going, and remind every now and again how far we’ve come and how much further we must go. I will come with you, patiently, every step of the way.


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