Background of Apartheid
Apartheid was a policy of legally sanctioned racial discrimination and segregation in South Africa that lasted from 1948-1994. Apartheid has ended, but the effects of these policies can still be seen today. White Afrikaners, although a smaller portion of the population, were given a disproportionate amount of wealth during this time period, and many of today's conversations revolve around how to fix this lasting legacy of inequality.
The Lead up to EWC
One part of apartheid that largely drove inequality has to do with land ownership. The disparity in land ownership can be seen in 1913 with The Native Land Act. This act defined a native as someone “any person, male or female, who is a member of an aboriginal race or tribe of Africa”(SAHO, 2015). This definition segregated black South Africans (“natives”) from white South Africans who were of European heritage. The act gave 93% of the land to white South Africans. Native people were barred from buying land from anyone except other native people, and they could only own 7% of the land. This was later increased to 13.5% in the Native Land and Trust Act of 1936 (SAHO, 2015). This inequality has been inherited by current generations, where although not legally mandated, wealth is disproportionately in the hands of white South Africans.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, and his political party, The African National Congress (ANC), has pledged to end the lasting impact of these policies through a policy known as “expropriation without compensation” (EWC). Expropriation without compensation means that the government will be given the right to take land from the wealthy, to help the public good, and redistribute it without reimbursing the person who it was taken from (Answers Africa, 2018).
On July 31, 2018, Ramaphosa made a statement saying that he would finalize a proposed amendment to the South African constitution that would begin to outline how expropriation without compensation can be implemented. The goal of this policy would be to help fix the inequality in land ownership and wealth in South Africa. This has provoked many different reactions internationally with many concerns being raised about the future of agricultural productivity, investment in the country, and concerns of discrimination against white people.
One of the main questions we aimed to answer was: What determines public support for EWC and what factors influence individuals’ opinions on EWC? To tackle this question we concluded that analyzing petitions provided a unique insight into what individuals around the world were saying, their goals regarding EWC, and overall opinions and biases. Specifically, petitions were gathered from Change.org and Petitions24.com along with the parliamentary petition databases of various countries. Change.org and petitions24.com are both websites that allow users to post petitions for causes that they care about. The general public can then respond to these petitions and "sign" them online. Petitions were found using search terms that were common regarding the topic such as “EWC,” “South Africa,” and “property rights” and were included in the data if they specifically mentioned the EWC in some way shape or form. From here various variables were coded for each petition such as the origin, when spikes in signatures occurred, the language and argument used, as well as who started and was signing the petitions. The hard data gathered depended on the information each individual platform provided and was not uniform through all petitions. Tableau was then used to analyze the variables coded and display that data.
We began some preliminary data analysis and concluded that the majority of petitions found displayed a position against EWC and were aligned with a far-right mentality. This was especially evident in the petitions found on the Change.org platform. A total of 25 petitions were gathered, all were against EWC and 19 mentioned the murder of white South Africans and/or farmers as a reason why. We aligned the mentioning of murdering of these individuals with a far-right mentality because these accusations are promoted by far-right organizations, media outlets, and journalists. Credible media sources such as BBC news have concluded that “there is no reliable data to suggest farmers are at greater risk of being murdered than the average South African” (Chothia, 2018). As can also be seen in the first figure, the majority of petitions originated and targeted the United States. This could be partially due to AfriForum leaders, a South African lobby group focused on the protection of Afrikaner culture, having toured the US, and the extreme right organization Suidlanders visit to the US. This could also be due to Fox News airing a program about farmer killings, and President Trump’s tweet regarding EWC and farm murders occurring in South Africa. In addition, petitions from around the world reference to this occurrence of “white genocide” could be attributed to Suidlanders’ members meeting with far-right activists including David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan that has helped spread their message through their network.
One of the petitions that had the most signatures was found on the Petitons24.com platform. This petition was titled “Petition to Protect the Property Rights for the People of South Africa” and gained a total of 268 signatures thus far. It was created by caucus leader Cllr Phillip De Lange of the DA Ekurhuleni Caucus in order to prevent the initiation of the process of land expropriation without compensation in Ekurhuleni. This petition was created in early October 2018 as a result of Mayor Mzwandile Masina announcing that he wanted to be the “first Metro in Gauteng to expropriate land without compensation for the purposes of human settlement,” which would serve as a test of Section 25 of the Constitution. The plan included 4 properties, 3 private properties whose owners have relinquished their property rights and 1 governmental property in Benoni. As can be seen in the figure below, the majority of signatures originated from the town of Benoni from the city of Ekurhuleni in the province of Gauteng, but overall the majority of signatures came from towns in the city of Ekurhuleni and Gauteng as a whole. There were two seperate spikes in signatures, one between October 11th and the 15th, and a second spike between October 20th and 21st.
There are two prominent limitations that we came across when analyzing the petitions. One is not being able to search for petitions published in different languages, specifically on the Petitions24.com website. There is a probability that petitions in other languages would display a different stance, especially those originating from South Africa. The second is that since these petitions are online individuals that do not have access to a computer or the internet do not have the ability to participate. Therefore, these petitions are only seen and created by wealthier individuals, which encompasses the white minority, which may also be the reason why the majority of the petitions are against EWC.
Importance & Possible Next Steps
Overall producing and analyzing this type of data allows us to see what portion of the population is speaking out about EWC and why. From here we can notice interesting findings that we can feed off of to further investigate responses to the progress made and expand on the research that is not yet available about EWC.
Next steps for the Petition24.com petition can be to see what is causing the spikes in signatures during the mentioned dates. Possible factors could be announcements or advancements of EWC policy passing, a new popular article being published, or even a political figure speaking out. Coordination can be carried out with the Search Term Analysis team to see if there were spikes in EWC search terms in Gauteng during these dates as well. Another question that could be investigated is why signatures are coming from a certain town, specifically why are signatures so much higher in Benoni. Possible factors may be that there is a certain industry in the area that will be impacted or that a large portion of white South Africans live there and will be affected.
In regards to all the petitions in general, it would be interesting to see what the respective governments are doing in regards to them and the requests laid out. Specifically, if government officials are taking the petitions seriously, ignoring them, or taking an opposing stand. Lastly, it would be interesting to develop a public opinion survey and send it to the individuals that have created or signed petitions as well as distribute it to various individuals that live in South Africa. This would allow us to gather personal data on each individual's to see what specific factors are correlated with supporting EWC and with opposing the EWC.
News regarding EWC is developing day by day, and it is yet to be seen whether it will happen successfully. Through our research, we were able to analyze the mentality of those most passionate about EWC through petitions and determine possible reasons for the sources of these petitions. We will continue to track and analyze South Africa’s progress regarding EWC and be able to see if opinions have changed once the amendment language is released in March of 2019.
To interact and view the figures on the Tableau Public platform please visit the links below.
Kedibone. (2015, October 14). The Native Land Act is passed. Retrieved from https://www.sa
history. org. za/ dated-event/native-land-act-passed
Apartheid in South Africa: How it Happened and Everything to Know. (2018, April 16).
Retrieved from https://answersafrica.com/what-is-south-africa-apartheid-and-when-did -it -happe n.html
Chothia, F. (2018, September 01). South Africa: The groups playing on the fears of a 'white
genocide'. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45336840