Thursday, 16 June 2011

Land-grabs again

I've always been fascinated by the way in which words take on meaning over time. Land-grabs, at least in international development circles, now generally refers to foreign nationals/countries/companies buying up land in poor, helpless (African) countries. In South Africa, the term inspires fear in the hearts of land-owning (often white) people. The threat of "Zimbabwe-style land-grabs" carries overtones of retribution, violence, exile and echoes of chants like "one settler, one bullet" and "kill the boer, kill the farmer". Land redistribution efforts which, interestingly, often get support from the same people who so vehemently oppose the buying up of African land by foreigners. As if the Zimbabwean farmers who are being beaten, harassed, dispossessed and subjected to what amounts to forced removals are somehow less entitled to land than other Africans. Are some Africans more African than others?

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