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By Hans Mangole | Apr 16, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LAND ownership is a sensitive issue. We're forever reminded to be cautious in dealing with this issue because it is inextricably linked to national food security and export commodities.

LAND ownership is a sensitive issue. We're forever reminded to be cautious in dealing with this issue because it is inextricably linked to national food security and export commodities.

While all this is given deserved prominence, farm workers, who are a vital cog in this economic machinery, are consistently trivialised, reviled and brutalised. How Eugéne Terre'Blanche's death shook the world, but still failed to stir the national conscience about the plight of this class is depressing.

What irony and bigotry!

Agents in our social interplay deliberately or unwittingly overplay racism as a polarising issue to obscure the simmering struggle for social justice, spawned by unequal ownership or access to resources. The state machinery has done little to protect farm workers. It's a case of "Politicians laugh and drink/drunk to all demands", as Stevie Wonder croons.

Look at the horrific manner in which evictions are executed. In the land of their birth, farm workers are buried on the sides of roads or their bodies lie rotting in mortuaries because they have no burial place.

For farm workers, water, clinics, schools and electricity are rare privileges when some people fight for the "right" to keep their schools white. Can there really be dignity in such dehumanisation?

Then there are unmasked criminal acts. Here, too, our much-lauded Constitution remains a lifeless paper.

We expect law enforcement to be tough on culprits but, alas, our criminal justice system still bows before a perpetrator's colour and status.

Unjustly treated, farm workers are left to their own devices or prayers only, as their faith in the justice system had been eroded. It matters little if lions were fed a human body. Tying and dragging a labourer behind a vehicle for kilometres is also a minor incident. And it's simply an accident when a farmer fatally shoots his labourer, because he thought it was a baboon, as though it's normal for primates to be shot at.

What about the rape cases? These acts are not sufficiently hideous because the victims are mere objects in the wider capitalist system!

Mark Scott-Crossley, Terre'Blanche and other grossly abusive white owners of the means of production enjoy leniency because they represent a distinctive class that capitalism needs in its strategy to keep our focus away from economic inequalities or crimes. While we stress about "imminent racial war", capitalism reinvents itself by nicely adapting its evils to a changing environment.

The media has bought into this because racial tension has the immediacy that explosive headlines are made of. This is why Terre'Blanche's death is presented as a harbinger of an all-out racial war when it's clearly a criminal act.

But also under-emphasised is who, if this issue is justly examined, is the real criminal considering: child labour, months of unpaid low wages, threats to kill and allegations of sexual molestation? Basically, media biases and distortions of these issues amount to complicity - incitement and siding with capitalist interests.

A person like Helen Zille knows better. But because she is a servant of both white and capitalist interests, she stridently mouths "racial war" for purely political gain. If this is how a united country is built or reconciliation is achieved, Terre'Blanche would not be the last to die. Has Zille ever uttered a word about the killing, abuse and exploitation of farm workers or dwellers?

l The writer works for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The views expressed here are his own.


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