You might laugh, but even I as German have a family story to tell when it comes to the topic of expropriation of property in South Africa. In the late 1890s my great-grandfather emigrated from Hamburg to Johannesburg. After working for a local company he built up his own cardboard packaging manufacturer. Eventually the whole company got expropriated by the English after the Boer War. Without a cent in his pocket and being angry with the English he moved back to Germany, where he then met my great-grandmother and married her. No worries, I won’t claim back the cardboard packaging factory here. I guess it was quite a while ago and maybe I should call it circumstances of history. Anyways, as I learned, restitution claims can be dated back until 1913, when the Natives Land Act came into effect and my great-grandfather already had left South Africa.
Coming back to the present debate I would like to point out some important aspects:
One has to acknowledge that, yes, there is historic injustice. I would not go that far to call it an “original sin” as President Ramaphosa did. Nevertheless it was especially this Natives Land Act which disadvantaged the majority of South Africans, which could not create wealth by buying and owning land, while a minority of the population benefitted from the Act until the end of Apartheid.
Speech by Mr Henning Suhr, KAS Resident Representative
4 July 2018