If you look up land reform in South Africa in an atlas, you will see a picture of a Neanderthal armed with a wooden club dispersing a family of Brachiosauruses so that he might build a rudimentary security complex on their traditional grazing grounds. He was the first property developer. And while the dinosaurs went extinct, property developers still walk among us. It’s rather tragic.
Then, in the early Pleistocene – which came to an end when it got ground into the terrestrial carpet – Australopithecus africanus came along and things took a bit of a turn.
“Who the hell are you?” asked the Neanderthal.
“I am the earliest hominid and I am taking this complex for myself.”
“No, you’re not. Besides, I haven’t even started building it yet.”
“Then I shall take your land.”
“You will have to fight me for it.”
“I can’t. Not today. My wife wants me home early.”
“Your wife that Mrs Ples?”
“That’s her. Why?”
“Take my land. You’ve suffered enough.”
Not all transfers of land went as smoothly as that. Before long – well, quite long –Australopithecus sediba was fighting off Homo ergaster who fought off Homo erectus who fought off Homo rhodesiensis who fought off Homo helmei who fought off Homo naledi who thought about fighting off Homo sapiens but chose to off themselves rather than sit through interminable committee meetings on land ownership where nobody spoke the same language and everyone wanted more than they needed. Little has changed.
Then along came the Upper Paleolithic period and everything went to hell in a crudely woven hand basket. Men started thinking they should cover their willies in public and women started thinking … I don’t know what they were thinking and it’s not my place to guess, either. I apologise. Smash the patriarchy.
Hunting and gathering cultures known as the Sangoan began occupying parts of southern Africa. They were the forerunners of the Khoi and the San who, if they started dating, agreed to be called the Khoisan. Otherwise not.
They weren’t that into developing golf estates and shopping malls, preferring instead to get stoned and spend their evenings laughing and painting crazy things on the walls of their caves. They were fun people to have around on a Friday night.
Ultimately, though, they were too nice for their own good. The Bantu, you see, had plans. Well, inasmuch as you can call wandering off in a general southerly direction a plan. I think they must have travelled as I do. Let’s just go a bit further. See what’s around the next corner. Not this one, the next one. Then we’ll stop, I promise. Oh, look. A mountain. I wonder what’s on the other side.
I don’t know who was more surprised to see each other – the Khoisan or the Bantu. Knowing the Khoisan, they would have rolled a massive joint. Knowing the Bantu, they would have taken it.
You’d think that would have been the end of it. That they would start shagging each other and coexist happily. Which they did. Until the novelty wore off. Once you’ve had enough of rogering members of a different tribe, it’s not long before you want to murder them.
The Khoisan was the largest population on earth at some point. This isn’t me just making up facts. This comes from an evolutionary geneticist from Harvard University. I’m only mentioning it in the hope that the editor will notice that I’m doing research and give me more money. To spend on extra research, obviously. Not beer.
With their superior agricultural, metalworking and shagging skills, the Bantu soon enough became the dominant population and did whatever the hell they wanted. Which was only right. Those who dominate will always be domineering. That’s the whole point of being dominant.
While my ancestors were dressed in rags and selling potatoes outside a brothel in Rotterdam, the Bantu in Mapungubwe were trading in gold and ivory and building the region’s first gated compound. They had a kingdom, for heaven’s sake. With hot and cold running Khoikhoi servants. My people couldn’t even make themselves understood unless they were drunk.
Speaking of barbarians, an Australian-listed company called Coal of Africa wants to open a mine a stone’s throw from this world heritage site. Plans are on hold for now. If they do go ahead, I shall form a company called Wombats of Australia and go off to mine wombats on the Great Barrier Reef or wherever the hell it is these deadly creatures live.
So. The Bantu began expanding faster than Collen Maine’s waistline at a free buffet. Existing populations were displaced or assimilated. Or, if time was short, killed. Some fancied the Transkei so they went there and became the Xhosa nation. The rest fancied everything north of the Kei River and called themselves the Zulu nation. They had their differences but these were solved in traditional South African fashion – first dialogue, then violence.
At some point the Dutch arrived. It was okay at first. They built stuff, got high and grew vegetables. Jan van Riebeeck was a full-on hippy. Then, through some kind of weird reverse-evolution, some of them turned into Boers and went to the Transkei because it had the best grass. Still does. Since they couldn’t speak Xhosa, they skipped dialogue and proceed directly to violence.
Then the British arrived and occupied Cape Town to prevent it from falling under the control of the French. I’m starting to get a headache. From what I can make out, the Boers hated the British, the Zulus hated the British and the Boers, the Xhosas hated everyone and the British hated themselves.
Right. That’s enough history. We all know the rest. The Boers won. Then, in 1994, they lost. They spent a helluva long time at the top of the log, though. Then again, even Arsenal would dominate if they had an actual arsenal at their disposal.
So here we go. From a parliament of white people passing the Native Lands Act in 1913 to a parliament of black people in 2018 agreeing to take back the land. It’s a very complicated issue that gets a lot simpler the more you drink. Try it.
Firstly, you can’t confiscate all of it – all 1.2-million square kilometres – and give it to the state. King Goodwill Zwelithini would have a hissy fit and announce a unilateral declaration of independence. I don’t so much mind being a citizen of the People’s Republic of KwaZulu, but I really don’t want to have to go to Nongoma every time I need permission to travel outside the province.
Secondly, there’s a possibility that Julius Malema is pushing expropriation without compensation simply because he wants to get his cabbage farm back. It was auctioned off by the asset forfeiture unit in 2013 to pay his tax debt. Pouring salt in the wound, a white Afrikaner snapped it up.
In 20 years’ time, we will look back at the smouldering wreck that was once our economy, shake our heads sadly and say, “Bloody cabbages.”