Getting to the heart of the land issue — Afrika Mhlophe

Part 1 of a two-part series on the land issue

Read Part 2

The land issue has got South Africans into a knot. It has brought a terrible stench and revealed fractures lying below the surface. The debate is opening up old wounds, some say, while others are grateful that wounds that were festering are now finally being attended to. The positions are so irreconcilable and divisions deeper than we care to admit. So deep, in fact, that they cut across every sector of society – including the Church.

This issue is piercing through pleasantries and platitudes — to the core of our being. Brother is now rising against brother, as Cain did against Abel. You must understand that Cain did not just kill Abel because of jealousy over a rejected offering. He did so because he “belonged to the evil one” (1 John 3:12). In other words, his heart was captured elsewhere even though he had an offering directed towards God. A commitment to religion overshadowed a right relationship with God.

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The heart of the matter
Jeremiah tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things. So much so that it hoodwinks its very owner. Perhaps this is why Solomon tells us to Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life — Proverbs 4:23. Your life course is not determined by politics but by what is swirling in your heart. The real battlefield is your heart, rather than the parliament of South Africa. The battle itself is not just over land but over the future of this country.

Do we want a country where race continues to be an arbiter of a person’s future? As Christians, there are two things that we share as a common inheritance. The kingdom of God and an earthly place called South Africa. We must advance God’s kingdom, rather than extend our fiefdoms. We can’t keep land in perpetuity for our descendants, but we must steward and use it as part of our mission to advance God’s kingdom.

Remember Peter tells us that the earth and the works that in it will be burned up” — 1 Peter 3:10. So it is not worth destroying our eternal bonds for something that will pass away.

The heart is the wellspring of life
Personally, I knew that the land issue would surface at some point. But I am shocked at the fractious response from the church. Before Cain killed his brother God said to him: “Why are YOU so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do YOU look so dejected?” (Genesis 4:6, emphasis mine). God wanted Cain to take personal responsibility for how he felt. He didn’t want him to follow the example of Adam who transferred blame to his wife Eve. Well-known author and communicator, Andy Stanley, in the book Enemies of the Heart, says that a person can have a life-threatening heart problem that can go on undetected for years.

This issue can manifest itself through certain symptoms which are often treated as isolated issues unrelated to the health of the heart. The benefits from this kind of intervention are short-lived because the real problem (health of the heart) is left untreated and thus leaving it to worsen (2006:11). If you press a tube – let’s say of toothpaste – only what is inside the tube comes out. So when you are pressed, what comes out of you? Anger and hatred? Or kindness and love?

Let me use an example surrounding H&M, the Swedish retail giant, whose stores were recently trashed by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supporters. H&M faced the wrath of EFF when they produced an ad of a black boy wearing a sweatshirt with “coolest monkey in the jungle” on it. When H&M realized their marketing blunder, they apologized and removed the offending items. However, this was not enough to appease EFF supporters.

Sunday Times columnist Barney Mthombothi, was disgusted and wrote the following concerning the EFF, “Rage, after all, is their only currency.” He says with the departure of their gift horse – former President Jacob Zuma – the party will look for something to be “perpetually angry about.” In the Bible, anger is justified, but actions resulting from it are not. And this is why God presented Cain with another option. God said: “You will be accepted if you do what is right  — Genesis 4:6.

In my next article, I will share my views on “what is right” regarding the land issue. For now, I want to encourage you to keep guarding your heart.


  1. Hugh G Wetmore

    You’re on a right trajectory, Afrika. I look forward to what is to follow. I’m glad you’re grabbing this nettle – we need Christian insight.

  2. The Christian approach should not be of the realm of this world, but of the realm of the Kingdom of GOD; the fight is a spiritual one; for we fight not against flesh and blood. Our appeals, as believers born from above, need to go directly to GOD the Father, for He alone, has the capacity to resolve this issue. It is time for us to trust our Father to bring about a change.

  3. Dr. Peter Hammond, in his book Biblical Principles for Africa, writes about the right and neglected values relating to land ownership in Africa.

  4. Very encouraging.