Land Question in Africa: Ownership or Utility

To the hitherto existing African society, Land remains a controversial topic that has deeply polarized the society. 

The struggle for freedom in Africa was mainly anchored on two fundamental premises, universal suffrage (one man one vote)  and the land question. Land in Africa is beyond just a means of production and ways to capital, status, and class. Land in Africa is patrimonial, it gives dignity to the African people. Land represents culture, identity, and heritage. People were forced to move ancestral land where their forefathers and relatives were buried, disconnecting them from their heritage. Land from where shrines to worship their gods were situated. 

During colonialism, the natives were dislocated and displaced from their ancestral land for Agriculture championed by white colonists. Through the use of force both physically and psychologically, the blacks were successfully removed from all fertile soils. However, the development of consciousness in African society led to the debate about taking back the land through an armed struggle. The struggle was won throughout the African Continent through both negotiations and guerilla warfare. After gaining political freedoms, African countries embarked on completely different trajectories in pursuing the land question which determines the African economy, which in Marx’s sense, defines the base structure that influences the superstructure. And that raises a thesis that if you can not own and control the base structure, you do not own and control your social, political, and legal fabric. 

After Independence in Africa, there were two main extreme thoughts regarding land, full ownership vs utility regardless of racial redistribution. In Africa, those who owned the land controlled the economy, and in the Nationalist ideological creed, they believed in changing the concrete material realities of the people and addressing the innermost African aspirations through Socialism which asserts State ownership of the “commons”, goods that belong to no one but belong to everyone. At the center of the liberation discourse, was Land. But some Nationalist governments after taking power, continued preaching the land gospel but practically doing completely the opposite citing issues like the black’s readiness to utilize the land, the incapacitation of the states to fund the land redistribution program, and the unwillingness of the white to fall into the willing buyer – willing seller discourse. 

Black ownership. 

There’s no dispute to the fact that Africa should be owned by Africans, that is, land in Africa should be owned by the black native Africans. This is the point of departure. However African leaders abused this premise to rally support when they were about to lose power in their respective countries. For instance, in Zimbabwe, the land issue became very tropical in the early 2000s when Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF were now losing support and trust against the opposition MDC of Morgan Tsvangirai. Through political programs, Mugabe took back the land from whites. But the reservation to the acts was the lack of genuineness in the program, land was redistributed based on political affliction and persuasion not based on capacity. So it was black ownership without “utility”. 

Utility regardless of radical redistribution. 

The focus on utility alone without racial redistribution is retrogressive, oppressive, and undermines the African black people. The white bourgeoisie is more concerned about safeguarding its privileges, economic power, and capitalism so it mainly advocates for the idea of utility over racial redistribution. Cognizant of the historical injustices, whites were sure that few blacks we able to meet the demands of the land, the blacks wanted to take. The whites were better off because of the support they were given by the state. 

The Solution: A cocktail of Black Ownership and Maximum Utility. 

Land reform or redistribution is not just an agrarian enterprise but a cultural revolution anchored on restorative justice and reversing the evil of capitalism. It’s not right for approximately 8.4 % of whites in South Africa to own more than 70% of the land. Land alone in the hands of the blacks without the technical, intellectual, and capital support will not bring any positive impact on the African continent. Ultimately, the land must be in full ownership of the black people. Neither the East nor the West should own any inch of the African territory. Black ownership must and should only be achieved through radical appropriation without compensation: the white metropolis should compensate black people for subjugating them to slavery and violently grabbing the land that they want the blacks to now compensate. To implement land redistribution effectively, first and foremost, the African governments should be on a deliberate trajectory of decolonizing the minds of black people so that they do not see themselves as subhumans. Black people should start believing in themselves, doing things for themselves, and thinking for themselves without a desire to mimic the Western or Eastern world. After decolonizing the sub-conscience, governments should deliberately enroll a program to equip intellectually black people on how to farm and enhance their desire to farm. This starts by changing the education system in Africa which is not supply-based but demand-based. African people were made to believe that it is more worthy to be a lawyer, doctor, economist, or accountant than to be a farmer, work in construction, or do other nonwhite collar jobs. After intellectual capacitation, the African governments should finance black people to maximize utility. This is one of the great hindrances, but Africa is not broke but broken. What is lacking in Africa is not capital, but leadership and an embrace of economic integration and African Unity. The only way to be able to address and redress the land question is through the effective use of the African soil and subsoil, mitigating corruption, and nepotism and forming an economic power through the use of one currency, creating a free trade area and central political power that governs Africa as a whole. This will enable Africa to raise more capital and acquire adequate technology to maximize land utility in black hands. 

Africa, seek ye unity first and everything will be given unto you.


One comment on “Land Question in Africa: Ownership or Utility

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *