The Political Situation In South Africa According To Its Historical Development

Understanding historical developments is vital in being able to grasp the post-colonial social, political and economic dynamics in contemporary South Africa. Understanding a phenomenon according to its historical development allows us to clearly comprehend how things have occurred over the years dating back from colonialism to post-apartheid South Africa. In short, historical injustices are still shaping the current situation in South Africa today.

The introduction of the so called “Native Policy” meant the intensification of oppression and exploitation of the African population. This policy masterminded all the laws and acts such as the “Hut Tax”, “Poll Tax”, the Glen Grey Act and the introduction of more drastic measures such as the Land Act of 1913. This Act meant that the African population could not buy land except in the overcrowded reserves. It was illegal for the African population to occupy land on “white farms” either on a rental system or squatter system. This Act basically made it impossible for the African population to acquire land or own land.

From 1936 to 1937, the “Native Acts” were passed which included the “Native Representation Act”, the “Native Trust”; and more Land Acts. These “Native Acts” were supposedly “to give land” to the African population but instead conditions got even worse. This “Native Policy” was to force the African population off the land to go work in cities as cheap labour and to support capitalism in terms of consuming the products of capitalism.

In contemporary South Africa the symptoms of the draconian laws that were imposed by the “white oppressors” are still vivid. There has been a huge number of peasants migrating from the countryside to big cities for economic reasons. A lot of informal settlements are established next to these big cities effectively serving as reserves of cheap labour. These are the present symptoms of the labour migrant system that was established to exploit the African population as cheap labour. Today the proletariat, separated from the land, are forced to sell their labour power cheaply without rabid, political draconian means. They do not have a choice because of the conditions that were created in the past that are still affecting them even today.

The constitutional preservation of tribalism, giving authority to organisations such as the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA), is further deepening the oppression of women in particular and the rural poor more broadly. The system of chieftaincy is not democratic because few people are involved in decision making.  The Kings and Chiefs in the countryside still control vast tracts of land while the peasantry owns small patches of land that is not arable for food production or livestock grazing. South Africa’s constitution protects minority rights and the property clause means those who acquired land during colonialism are protected by law which further promotes the privatisation of land ownership.  Moreover, the official Land Reform Programme subscribes to the willing-buyer willing-seller approach.

In a paper written  by Jane Gool Tabata entitled The Land Question and the Struggle for Freedom, 1991, she noted that the Herrenvolk stated they would scrap the 1913, and 1936 Land Acts and also the Group Areas Act, but nothing else. This explains why we are still facing the current struggles in society against the continuing oppression and exploitation of  the proletariat and peasantry.

To change the current conditions it is important for the peasantry and proletariat to unite in order to advance the struggle for land and freedom. The two classes need a clear political understanding in order to build a revolutionary approach to change the current conditions. Political education is one approach in engaging these two classes. As I B Tabata stated in his 1962 Presidential Address to Apdusa  “Without them we are nothing. With them we are everything and nothing can stand in our way”.

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