Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “civil rights”

Land expropriation without compensation

Oh the irony!

President Cyril Ramaphosa is handing out title deeds to land which he wants to empower the government to expropriate without compensation. Ramaphosa hands out title deeds in Tembisa during Thuma Mina campaign – The Citizen:

He said through handing over title deeds, the government was giving people their dignity back, giving them a store of wealth and empowering them economically.

“A house is the most important asset that one can own,” Ramaphosa said.

He urged title deed holders to treat their certificates as valuable assets, adding that title deeds would be handed out throughout the country.

How can he do this with a straight face — tell people that these certificates are “valuable assets”, when his own government is planning to remove all value from them? The government giving with one hand while it takes with the other.

President Cyril Ramaphosa handing out title deeds (The Citizen)

President Ramaphosa chaired the commission which drew up the Constitution, including the restrictions on expropriating land without compensation. He, of all people, ought to have known what that clause was there for — because previous governments of the National Party had expropriated land without compensation, or with derisory compensation, to be able to move people around in its ethnic cleansing programme.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically-elected president he said “Never again”, but it seems that those who have followed him thought he meant again and again. And removing that clause in the constitution will open the way to all kinds of abuses — abuses that we thought we would never have to suffer again.

The relevant section of the Bill of Rights reads:

2. Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application ­

a. for a public purpose or in the public interest; and

b. subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.

I believe a great deal of thought was given to that, and I was aware of many instances of abuse under the previous National Party government that had led to that clause being inserted into the Bill of Rights.

Among those abuses were the removal of people from Khumaloville to Hobsland. There was a black farming community at Khumaloville, where people had title to the land, and had two acre plots. The National Party government expropriated the land and offered the people half-acre plots at Hobsland in exchange. They were offered compensation of R42 for their two acres, and were given the opportunity of buying a further half acre at Hobsland for R55. At Hobsland they would also be subject to restrictions on their farming activities.

That was in the 1960s, under the programme of “Blackspot Removals”, and such things occurred all over the country.

Another instance, not concerned specifically with compensation, but rather with the abuses of expropriation, happened in the 1970s, not, this time, in the name of Blackspot Removals, but rather in the name of “Homeland Consolidation”.

A number of sugar farms between Eshowe and Empangeni in Zululand were expropriated from white farmers to be added to the KwaZulu “homeland”. One of the farmers, Guy Chennells, proposed that he stay on his farm for a couple of years, and share his skills and experience with the incoming black farmers, to enable them to make a go of running the farm. This was rejected by the National Party government, and a few years later the reason for the rejection became apparent — there were no black farmers. The farm, now owned by the government, was occupied and profitably farmed by a National Party functionary at a purely nominal rental, who was in no hurry to move out and thus consolidate the “Homeland”.

We are familiar with such corruption in our own day, as we see similar activities in state-owned enterprises such as Eskom. But they were less well known in the old days, not because they didn’t happen, but because back then we didn’t have a free press that could report them. If journalists knew of such things they were too scared to report them, and in the case of the few bolder exceptions, their stories were often spiked, because the shareholders in the newspaper firms were afraid.

Cyril Ramaphosa gives assurances that “land expropriation without compensation” will take place in an orderly and responsible manner, and of course when he is handing out title deeds to people he isn’t planning to immediately take them away again. But what he is planning to do is to remove the protection that would prevent anyone else from taking them away, as Julius Malema of the EFF is already promising (or threatening) to do if his party comes to power.

So Cyril Ramaphosa reminds me of B.J. Vorster who, whenever he proposed legislation that would grant him and his police extraordinary powers, would always reassure the public that these powers would not be abused and would be used responsibly, and that “the innocent had nothing to fear.” And in a way Cyril Ramaphosa is doing the same thing, saying, in effect, “don’t trust the constitution, trust me.”. .

And I’m reminded of this every Sunday in church when we sing

Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men,
in whom there is no salvation.
when his breath departs he returns to his earth;
on that very day his plans perish

 

Terrorism Acts and police states

I understand that South Africa’s notorious Terrorism Act of 1967, which made South Africa a fully-fledged police state, has been repealed.

In Britain, a Terrorism Act has recently been introduced, and, has been having a similar effect to the South African one, of turning Britain into a police state. This incident, which took place a few years ago, is an example.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour issues apology to heckler:

The Labour Party has apologised after an 82-year-old member was thrown out of its annual conference for heckling.

Walter Wolfgang, from London, was ejected from the hall after shouting ‘nonsense’ as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy.

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

When such draconian legislation is introduced, government spokesmen give the usual reassurances that the innocent have nothing to fear, that the police can be trusted not to abuse their powers, and so on.

And almost inevitably, the powers are abused to suppress the civil rights of ordinary citizens, which seems to have happened in this case. In the light of this kind of thing, Gordon Brown’s Vorsterian urge to introduce 90-day detention to Britain is even more scary.

Terrorism Acts and police states

I understand that South Africa’s notorious Terrorism Act of 1967, which made South Africa a fully-fledged police state, has been repealed.

In Britain, a Terrorism Act has recently been introduced, and, has been having a similar effect to the South African one, of turning Britain into a police state. This incident, which took place a few years ago, is an example.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour issues apology to heckler:

The Labour Party has apologised after an 82-year-old member was thrown out of its annual conference for heckling.

Walter Wolfgang, from London, was ejected from the hall after shouting ‘nonsense’ as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy.

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

When such draconian legislation is introduced, government spokesmen give the usual reassurances that the innocent have nothing to fear, that the police can be trusted not to abuse their powers, and so on.

And almost inevitably, the powers are abused to suppress the civil rights of ordinary citizens, which seems to have happened in this case. In the light of this kind of thing, Gordon Brown’s Vorsterian urge to introduce 90-day detention to Britain is even more scary.

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border | csmonitor.com

People in the US seem to have a very swivel-eyed idea of privacy. They object to identity documents and the like, yet seem to put up with this sort of thing with hardly a squeak. To me this is real Gestapo/KGB stuff, and carrying an identity document is just part of normal life. It’s funny how cultures differ.

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border | csmonitor.com:

Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is.

For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips.

In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data.

To me that kind of thing implies that the State owns you, body and soul, and can steal your ideas, your inventions, and your secrets with impunity and no accountability.

It’s what used to happen in South Africa in the bad old days. A fellow called Martin West did a lot of research on African Independent Churches in Soweto. Some of it was published in a book called Bishops and prophets in a black city, but the rest was stored in the Christian Institute offices and seized in an SB raid. It has never reappeared. Months of research just vanished. And now the US is doing the same sort of thing.

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