Land a hot issue at book launch
Government still needs to answer questions, says best seller’s author
The contentious land question quickly became the hot topic of discussion at the Port Elizabeth launch last night of advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s bestseller, The Land Is Ours.
Colonial apartheid systems, the loss of black legal talent and, perhaps most importantly, the dispossession of land to the detriment of black people, are some of the themes laid bare in the book.
Described as a well-researched book by political analyst and writer Mphutumi Ntabeni, The Land Is Ours traces the foundations of black legal resistance against loss of land in South Africa.
In his review, Ntabeni also called it “a historical search for the first black lawyers of South Africa … educated abroad, coming back home, and treated horribly by a racist system.”
In the end, Ntabeni wrote, due to being frustrated and discriminated against, the talented lawyers became mostly lost to alcoholism, divorced and sometimes even abandoned by their own families.
Ngcukaitobi said bookshops had at first refused to stock his book – of which only 3 000 copies were initially printed.
“[EFF leader] Julius Malema went to a store in Johannesburg and he wanted to buy 10 copies and they didn’t have it,” Ngcukaitobi said.
“When he asked around they told him the books were at the back.
“He then tweeted furiously that the white owners [of the bookstores] were hiding black stories deliberately,” Ngcukaitobi told a packed auditorium at the university’s north campus.
“Anyway, they [the printers] had to print more [copies] and now it’s been on the bestseller list for many weeks.”
Professor Nomalanga Mkhize, who was at the launch last night, encouraged the audience to read the book, so that what had happened would never be repeated.
“I want to talk about rescuing black talent, that is why I’m here,” Mkhize said.
“It’s why the sociology department is here. Having said that, we do need to interrogate our responses to the dispossession of land.
“We are going to have to interrogate the nature of the politics that surround how we are going to deal with the land question.
“You can read the book for the details on how people fought, lawfully, looking at how to return black people’s stolen land – it’s detailed [in the book]”.
Mkhize said land expropriation without compensation was inevitable.
“I think it’s inevitable that the land is going to be reoccupied by the masses.
“The only question is how the state will respond. And it’s not a theoretical question, it’s a question of whether we’ll have many more Marikanas or not,” she said.
Ngcukaitobi agreed, saying that land invasions were nothing new.
“I’m not particularly obsessed with the so-called fear of land invasion,” he said.
“Land was invaded in this country in 1813, it was invaded again in 1913 [and again] invaded in 1955.
“In fact, the biggest land grab was in 1913 and they passed an act, saying 87% of the land belongs to whites, 13% to blacks.
“The point I’m trying to make is that we should stop thinking about grassroots struggles, that sometimes include occupation of vacant land, as in conflict with transformation and democratic processes.
“They are sometimes not just inevitable outcomes, they are sometimes necessary to propel the path forward for revolutionary changes.
“Nobody has the right to evict people because they’ve occupied land illegally [because] the law specifically protects illegal occupiers of land and recognises that historically, black people were pushed out, so only a court can tell you to leave.”
Mkhize said: “I’m suggesting that the real violence of the state will happen when we occupy historically white areas.”
Ngcukaitobi said the government still needed to answer some questions.
“The same state that says it’s going to give us land is evicting us from land we’re occupying.”