How does one rebuild a formally colonised country? It's perhaps the biggest unanswered question up and down the African continent - much of the 20th century was concerned with self-rule and independence movements which lead in many cases to military juntas and anti-democratic governance and protracted civil wars.
In South Africa, we managed through some very shrewd brinkmanship to avoid both a war and a dictatorship: whilst that was a massive achievement, the massive inequalities present in colonial times have unfortunately only worsened, even if some of the beneficiaries now have black skins.
So where to now? In a fascinating article published this week in The Daily Maverick, Andries du Toit, Director at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies and the University of the Western Cape, argues that the land issue is at the core of nation-building. Whilst many in the black elite believe that it's 'simply' a case of restoring land to any and all black people, many in the left argue that land must only be restored to the indigent or the needy in the country, aside from race.
As such, the principles of the Freedom Charter, which enshrined 'just and equitable' transfer of assets stolen during the apartheid and colonial era, is now up for debate: how does one decide who is truly a worth beneficiary, what the value of that asset may have been then and now and also if the current owner should be compensated, if the state redistributes his or her asset?
It's a question that once one enters into it becomes only more complicated, with the waters becoming murkier rather than clearer: but as Du Toit says: "land reform for the poor — land reform for small farmers, land reform that doesn’t just deepen the hold of corporate power in our food system, land reform that makes a direct contribution to the tenure security and livelihoods of our most marginalised rural and urban citizens — is a good place to start". That's perhaps something that all countries can agree on, even those developed nations that were never colonised themselves.
Images courtesy of www.mg.co.za, Africa Check, Herald Live and Africa Harvest