Water Shortage and the New Amendment
Recently, Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed as the new president of South Africa after Jacob Zuma was forced to resign, according to Nairobi News. Ramaphosa promised before he was appointed president that he would give black South Africans farms currently owned by white South Africans. Three days ago, an amendment to the South African constitution was approved by parliament to do just that. The amendment states that the government can take land without financially compensating the previous owners. If the amendment is ratified, white South African farmers could be forced to give up their lands.
Ramaphosa promised that he will transfer land from white farmers to black farmers, according to the Independent. Julius Malema first proposed this new law. He told parliament, “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.” Many black South Africans see this as them taking back what was once theirs before South Africa was colonized by white Europeans, according book author John Campbell. Campbell also believes that the South African government, despite what its president claims, will not take away farms from white South Africans because it could greatly hurt their agricultural economy.
South Africa’s water shortage has greatly impacted their agriculture, according to Reuters. South Africa’s crop yield is expected to drop by 20% this year due to the three year drought. Western Cape has been one of the hardest areas hit, with farmers having to cut their water usage by 60% this year. So far, 30,000 agricultural jobs have been cut to compensate for the cost of producing fewer crops in the drought.
This persistent drought is related to climate change. At a time when South Africa needs experienced farmers, several politicians, like the president, have openly stated that they intend to take land from white farmers who have worked their fields for decades and give it to black farmers. The president stated that he also wants to protect the agricultural economy, especially during the drought, according to Campbell. If the South African government does take land away from experienced white farmers and gives it to black farmers who do not know how to effectively grow crops in the middle of a severe drought, this could lead to a large food shortage and cripple their agricultural economy.
Climate Change and Human Rights
Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey discusses how many Native Pacific Islanders’ traditional culture is intertwined with nature. As time passes and the world becomes more connected, many aspects of small cultures are lost. Due to climate change, the Kiribati have had to buy land in another country as a safe haven since their islands are being lost to the sea. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all people have the right to “life, liberty, and security of person.” With their islands disappearing from the changing climate, the Kiribati can remain on their islands and fight a losing battle, move to the land their government bought in Fiji, or try to seek asylum in another country on the grounds that their land is gone. In this instance, climate change and human rights are directly related because climate change is interfering with many of the rights listed in the UN’s declaration.
How can the Kiribati have a right to their nationality if their nation ceases to exist? They have an endangered culture. Endangered cultures are cultures that are close to disappearing. I do believe there are endangered cultures. South Africa has several small ethnic groups that have their own cultures such as the KhoiKhoi and San, according to Show Me. These groups were originally nomadic in the desert areas. Their cultures are endangered as South Africa grows and their members die or give up their traditional way of life.
Climate change in South Africa is affecting South African human rights. The drought and inevitable Day Zero has led to extreme rations of water in much of the country. The farmers, as previously stated, have been forced to slash their water usage. At a time when experienced farmers are needed now more than ever to provide food for their country, the president supports a constitutional amendment that could interfere with white South African farmers’ human rights as outlined in the UN declaration. Article 17.2 states that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” While wanting to give black South Africans “their land back” was the motivation behind the amendment, climate change is still connected to this basic human right defined by the UN. While South Africa never voted to approve these rights, it is still a member of the United Nations.
In his chapter “Beyond Eurocentrism,” Farish Noor discusses how globalization has brought different cultures and societies closer together. This exposure to a variety of cultures bring up some important ideas, Noor suggests, such as is there a universal set of human rights, how could those rights be judged, can different aspects of culture guide and promote human rights, and what are the obstacles preventing a set of universal human rights. Noor discusses eurocentrism, which is basically viewing something through a European cultural lens, where non-European-based ideas are inferior. South Africa, I believe, is struggling between its traditional ways from before colonization, European ideas implemented during and after colonization, and Western, European-based nations like the United States who influence multiple aspects of modern South Africa’s culture, government, and economy. Noor suggests that countries should be aware that the world is “multicultural, multi-religious, and multiracial” and try to understand and view things through other cultural lenses instead of only viewing them from our own lens. Right now, many Americans are struggling with this as they react to the news that the South African government may soon be legally allowed to take land away from one race to give to another. There’s a petition to U.S. President Trump to allow white South African farmers, who do end up having their lands taken away, to move to the United States, according to Newsweek. These Americans see the amendment as racist, while many South Africans see it as giving their land back to their people.