I had mostly completed my column, in which I had written about the recent tinker tailor soldier Corbyn controversy, when I stumbled upon one of my housemates watching the sci-fi film District 9.
The film tells the tale of an alien landing in South Africa which precipitates an influx of destitute creatures dubbed ‘prawns’ into a squalid internment camp administered by a careless and often brutal government.
I had glanced at the film years ago, but when finally watching it properly for the first time my mind was instantly kindled by a story which has yet to receive much media attention: the plight of white farmers in South Africa.
This past week the parliament of South Africa voted to amend Section 25 of the constitution and permit the expropriation of land without any financial recompense. In practice, this vote will allow the government to confiscate the property of white farmers in South Africa without providing any compensation whatsoever, leaving them destitute.
The move is reminiscent of the tyranny of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, who did the same, and in the process severely damaged the economy of his country. This isn’t simply a case of economics, though, as freedom from the arbitrary seizure of property is one of the fundamental tenets of a free society.
Much of the media attention relating to South Africa has been focused on the disgrace of recently resigned President Jacob Zuma, so much so that little notice was afforded to the new President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vow to accelerate the transfer of land from white farmers to black ones.
The displacement of white citizens in South Africa is already widespread with over 80 ramshackle squatter townships across the republic which are home to hundreds of mostly Afrikaans- speaking families with little food and often no running water or electricity.
Redressing historic inequality and the legacy of apartheid is one matter, undermining a basic tenet of a free society. Threatening the economy and targeting a racial group in the hope to use populist fervour to distract from corruption is tyranny, and ought to concern the world. South Africa’s Freedom Charter reads: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white … our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities.” It is to be hoped that South Africa can rediscover the noble endeavour of this creed.