South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, wants to address the legacy of colonization in his country by taking land from white farmers and giving it to the Black citizens.

Ramaphosa said in an address to South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town that the “original sin” of the country was the European colonizers taking land from the tribal people in the 1600s.

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The president said that he wanted to see “the return of the land to the people from whom it was taken… to heal the divisions of the past.”

“The expropriation of land without compensation is envisaged as one of the measures that we will use to accelerate redistribution of land to black South Africans,” Ramaphosa said.

He went on to promise, “We will handle it in a way that is not going to damage our economy.”

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It’s certainly one way to address the long history of division and hurt that has followed South Africa since its colonization. The racism and division put in place by colonization and perpetuated by apartheid and other racist policies have left the country’s Black citizens playing an extended game of catch up when it comes to wealth.

The example of Zimbabwe

But as Business Insider noted, there are dangers inherent in this kind of policy, since it’s one that Zimbabwe tried at the turn of the century.

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, confiscated land from white farmers in 1999 and 2000 as part of a redistribution program, and the shock of the transition severely damaged the economy, leading to hyperinflation and decades of economic depression.

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Hopefully, South Africa will learn from Zimbabwe and follow a redistribution program that allows the new landowners time to transition and train.

Time will tell what the long-term effects of this policy will be, though we applaud Ramaphosa’s focus on healing the hurts caused by colonization on the continent.