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Loathe or admire the apprentice who became the president, all owe a debt to Donald Trump.  Upon telling his secretary of state to home in on fears that Mandela’s legatees had declared open season on white farmers and farmland, the habituated tweeter provoked his opposite number to defend what, to many, seems gutter politics.

If a road to Hell is paved with good intentions, another road going to the same venue is paved with bad intentions.  It’s the road South Africa is on.  Manipulators of a penniless mass may drum into them having been dealt a derisory thin edge of the wedge.  Do the poor want to go on being pushed around and exploited?  Are they content with being homeless and landless? Do they want the white Boers to harvest their lavish gift, the farmlands God meant indigenous people to have and to hold?  Do they like being knocked over with a sneeze, or do they want to command respect?  Victims may take back what is theirs by right.

The rabble-rousers are half-correct, which is a problem.  Under colonial Britain and then Apartheid, South African blacks were displaced; whites did fill the gap.  Agriculture thrived, and the Boer farmer lived off the lap of the land.  The constitution of 1996 allowed for restitution.  Land taken, unjustly by the whites, would be returned.  There’d be a more equitable distribution of it in the future.  Promises failed to happen, or nowhere near fast enough for a foot-stomping black majority.  The Boer villain took the blame; so did black leaders (e.g., the godly Mandela on his plinth) for wanting to reconcile with the privileged whites.  Again the instigators of violence make half a case.  Land reform was sold to blacks as reward for voting the ANC and allies into the seats of power.  Politics what it is, the lining of pockets came first, keeping promises a distant third or fourth or fifth.

But the instigators of trouble and strife are also half-wrong, and that makes another problem.  A poll by the South African Institute of Race Relations found that a snippet, a mere 1% of black people see “speeding up land reform” as a top priority.  The other 99% don’t want to be farmers.  Even the rural poor prefer to live and work and own some real estate in the cities.

Enter taut-faced President Ramaphosa, taking the hot seat from a deposed kleptomaniac who brought the country to wrack and ruin.  The endgame beckons.  The new leader lost no time, if not paving, then laying the road to Hell.  With the 2019 elections to be won, Mr. Ramaphosa needs to outflank a radical opposition party, busy as a hornet filling poor millions with promises of a free-for-all land grab.  What a tin shack-dweller in Khayaletshe on the perimeter of Cape Town would do with 50 hectares and a flock of sheep in the bleak Karoo is a moot point.  Rather give him a plot with a brick house near a suburb, where he tends the garden of a well-to-do family for a weekly pittance.  Now, that would bring out the poor to vote for the ruling party!  But no – building even a square thing with a roof on it takes thought and work, and politicians are not cut out to be workhorses.  Rubbing the genie lantern to coax a villain to come out is the trouble-free way to go.

Such is the core of the Land Reform program that got Trump’s goat.  To paraphrase the old adage: don’t believe what politicians say; watch what they do.  “Land reform in SA is a moral, social and economic imperative,” Ramaphosa wrote in the Financial Times, looking to calm down jittery investors.  “The ANC has been clear that its land reform program should not undermine future investment in the economy, or damage agriculture and food security.”

Humans may wish, but God decides.  Ramaphosa might need God to make the seizure of land consistent with the willingness of investors to invest.  They’ll look for an example or two of countries where taking farmers’ land by decree did not discourage them to farm.  And something called human nature intrudes.  An unkept promise begets violent thoughts, fertile ground for a populist leader to exhort and stir the poor into seizing real estate with abandon. The devil of a brew!  How foreign investors will take the president’s claptrap, there’s no telling.  Probably they’ll want to see what the billionaire turned politician will do.

Exactly what does the embattled leader have in mind when writing of land reform in S.A. as an imperative?  Politics is not an exact science, yet his goal and his challenge seem to be this great imperative.  Can one even contest that tearing land away from the owner to give to someone with no use for it is, in and of itself, a nonsensical thing to do, morally, socially, economically?  To call it self-defeating lunacy would not be wrong.  To understand it as candy-coating would hit the bell.  Ramaphosa’s imperative, the hope and salvation of his party, is to woo millions from a vision of land freebies dangled like a precious pendant by a nihilistic opposition.

Hence, a problem-solving land reform program comes down to politicians behaving badly.  For preserving the lifestyle that attends power, office-bearers of the ruling ANC have put trust in a diversion, suicidal and selfish.  If only voters would overlook the party’s woeful 25 years in power, it would suit them just fine.  Short-term imperative drowns out the certainty of a near-term plunge into the abyss.  Party hacks have hit on vote-winning terrible twins, on a black victim and a villain bleached whiter than white.  Putting the genie back in the bottle once they’ve done with it is a difficulty that’s been kicked down the road.

In the reaction provoked by a tweeting Donald Trump, look for this victim versus villain motif.  Be awake to the practicality of winning elections by sprinkling oil on combustible hatred of the white-skinned.  

The writer is a prolific author of novels, non-fiction, and essays.  His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; contributor to “War by other means: Israel and its detractors,” 2012; Enemies of Zion (ready for publication early 2019); and Balaam’s Curse (WIP novel).  His articles have appeared on many sites and in many journals.  Steve blogs at Enemies of Zion (http://enemiesofzion.wordpress.com).

Loathe or admire the apprentice who became the president, all owe a debt to Donald Trump.  Upon telling his secretary of state to home in on fears that Mandela’s legatees had declared open season on white farmers and farmland, the habituated tweeter provoked his opposite number to defend what, to many, seems gutter politics.

If a road to Hell is paved with good intentions, another road going to the same venue is paved with bad intentions.  It’s the road South Africa is on.  Manipulators of a penniless mass may drum into them having been dealt a derisory thin edge of the wedge.  Do the poor want to go on being pushed around and exploited?  Are they content with being homeless and landless? Do they want the white Boers to harvest their lavish gift, the farmlands God meant indigenous people to have and to hold?  Do they like being knocked over with a sneeze, or do they want to command respect?  Victims may take back what is theirs by right.

The rabble-rousers are half-correct, which is a problem.  Under colonial Britain and then Apartheid, South African blacks were displaced; whites did fill the gap.  Agriculture thrived, and the Boer farmer lived off the lap of the land.  The constitution of 1996 allowed for restitution.  Land taken, unjustly by the whites, would be returned.  There’d be a more equitable distribution of it in the future.  Promises failed to happen, or nowhere near fast enough for a foot-stomping black majority.  The Boer villain took the blame; so did black leaders (e.g., the godly Mandela on his plinth) for wanting to reconcile with the privileged whites.  Again the instigators of violence make half a case.  Land reform was sold to blacks as reward for voting the ANC and allies into the seats of power.  Politics what it is, the lining of pockets came first, keeping promises a distant third or fourth or fifth.

But the instigators of trouble and strife are also half-wrong, and that makes another problem.  A poll by the South African Institute of Race Relations found that a snippet, a mere 1% of black people see “speeding up land reform” as a top priority.  The other 99% don’t want to be farmers.  Even the rural poor prefer to live and work and own some real estate in the cities.

Enter taut-faced President Ramaphosa, taking the hot seat from a deposed kleptomaniac who brought the country to wrack and ruin.  The endgame beckons.  The new leader lost no time, if not paving, then laying the road to Hell.  With the 2019 elections to be won, Mr. Ramaphosa needs to outflank a radical opposition party, busy as a hornet filling poor millions with promises of a free-for-all land grab.  What a tin shack-dweller in Khayaletshe on the perimeter of Cape Town would do with 50 hectares and a flock of sheep in the bleak Karoo is a moot point.  Rather give him a plot with a brick house near a suburb, where he tends the garden of a well-to-do family for a weekly pittance.  Now, that would bring out the poor to vote for the ruling party!  But no – building even a square thing with a roof on it takes thought and work, and politicians are not cut out to be workhorses.  Rubbing the genie lantern to coax a villain to come out is the trouble-free way to go.

Such is the core of the Land Reform program that got Trump’s goat.  To paraphrase the old adage: don’t believe what politicians say; watch what they do.  “Land reform in SA is a moral, social and economic imperative,” Ramaphosa wrote in the Financial Times, looking to calm down jittery investors.  “The ANC has been clear that its land reform program should not undermine future investment in the economy, or damage agriculture and food security.”

Humans may wish, but God decides.  Ramaphosa might need God to make the seizure of land consistent with the willingness of investors to invest.  They’ll look for an example or two of countries where taking farmers’ land by decree did not discourage them to farm.  And something called human nature intrudes.  An unkept promise begets violent thoughts, fertile ground for a populist leader to exhort and stir the poor into seizing real estate with abandon. The devil of a brew!  How foreign investors will take the president’s claptrap, there’s no telling.  Probably they’ll want to see what the billionaire turned politician will do.

Exactly what does the embattled leader have in mind when writing of land reform in S.A. as an imperative?  Politics is not an exact science, yet his goal and his challenge seem to be this great imperative.  Can one even contest that tearing land away from the owner to give to someone with no use for it is, in and of itself, a nonsensical thing to do, morally, socially, economically?  To call it self-defeating lunacy would not be wrong.  To understand it as candy-coating would hit the bell.  Ramaphosa’s imperative, the hope and salvation of his party, is to woo millions from a vision of land freebies dangled like a precious pendant by a nihilistic opposition.

Hence, a problem-solving land reform program comes down to politicians behaving badly.  For preserving the lifestyle that attends power, office-bearers of the ruling ANC have put trust in a diversion, suicidal and selfish.  If only voters would overlook the party’s woeful 25 years in power, it would suit them just fine.  Short-term imperative drowns out the certainty of a near-term plunge into the abyss.  Party hacks have hit on vote-winning terrible twins, on a black victim and a villain bleached whiter than white.  Putting the genie back in the bottle once they’ve done with it is a difficulty that’s been kicked down the road.

In the reaction provoked by a tweeting Donald Trump, look for this victim versus villain motif.  Be awake to the practicality of winning elections by sprinkling oil on combustible hatred of the white-skinned.  

The writer is a prolific author of novels, non-fiction, and essays.  His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; contributor to “War by other means: Israel and its detractors,” 2012; Enemies of Zion (ready for publication early 2019); and Balaam’s Curse (WIP novel).  His articles have appeared on many sites and in many journals.  Steve blogs at Enemies of Zion (http://enemiesofzion.wordpress.com).



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