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  • Centenary of the Land Act in South Africa

    By JoeyA | June 19, 2013


    Today, 19th June 2013, marks 100 years since the Natives Land Act was passed by the Union of South Africa. This Act, whose crippling legacy is still with us today, effectively gave right to 80% of the land to the white minority who accounted for less than 20% of the population and legal effect to years of violent dispossession of land of the African majority during the colonial wars. Consequently, the Natives Land Act robbed Blacks in general and Africans in particular of their birth right and ensured their deliberate impoverishment through the destruction of competitive African farming and eradication of the surplus producing African peasantry which ensured food security for many of our people.

    Since its formation in 1912, the African National Congress has remained steadfast in its vehement opposition of this systematic exploitation and exclusion of the South African majority. The democratic breakthrough of 1994, provided the ANC government opportunity to implement policies that has sought to reverse the effects of this heinous Act which laid the foundation for the policies for racial segregation that would intensify in later years. Ready to Govern, our policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa, was instructive that our policies must provide access to land both as a productive resource and to ensure that all our citizens have a secure place to live. Since 1994, the ANC government has sought to redistribute, by 2014, 30% of the country`s productive white-owned agricultural land and to improve the living conditions of the landless poor. The centenary of the 1913 Natives Land Act therefore provides an opportune moment to evaluate how far we have come in our quest to realize the aspiration of the landless and dispossessed majority and to assess what needs to be done to eradicate the legacy of racially biased restrictions of land ownership and to support a land reform process that shall ensure food security and prosperity for all.

    Successive conferences of the African National Congress have identified land reform and rural development as a key priority of our socio-economic transformation project, calling upon the ANC government to accelerate the pace of land restitution and redistribution. Conference resolutions have further been instructive that the country`s economic structures of production and ownership must be altered and apartheid settlement patterns in both urban and rural areas reversed, both challenges that arise as a consequence of the Natives Land Act of 1913 and years of colonization and subjugation of the African majority. The 53rd National Conference, in particular, called for a “radical and rapid break from the past” to accelerate the pace of land reform and further resolved to replace the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle with the “just and equitable” principle where land is being acquired for purposes of land reform; reaffirming once again that land holders rights must be subject to the residual interest of the South African people, present and future. In line with the second phase of the transition which seeks radical and decisive action to push back the frontiers of poverty, unemployment and inequality, Mangaung further resolved to expropriate land without compensation where such land is acquired through unlawful means or used for illegal purposes having due regard to Section 25 of the Constitution.

    There is still much to be done. The African National Congress notes the strides that have been made by government thus far in the process to restore the birthright of millions of South Africans. However we continue to decry the slow pace of land redistribution. It is indeed uninspiring that of the targeted 24,6 million hectares of land to be redistributed, only 4 million hectares has been transferred to black people and communities. To accelerate the pace of restitution and redistribution therefore the ANC calls upon all Parliament, NCOP and progressive forces to fast track the passing of the Expropriation Bill ensuring that it speedily becomes law. We further call for the speedy establishment of the Office of the Valuer-General, thus ensuring that an independent body is able to deal with the scourge of unscrupulous and unpatriotic landowners who would seek to milk government and hinder efforts at an equitable and just compensation for contested land. We call upon our government ensure that Land Rights Management Board is operational and given a decisive mandate to protect farm workers against unfair evictions, given that our people have been turned from independent producers to labourers and wage earners on the land of their birth.

    The ANC welcomes the process re-opening of the lodgment of land claims today, indeed a significant victory for those who did not claim during the first window of opportunity. It is further a victory that the exceptions to the 1913 cut-off date have been revised ensuring that all our people, including the San and Khoi community benefit from the return of their ancestral land.Government must now give more impetus to the Freedom Charter`s demand that “the state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers”. The Recapitalisation and Development Programme, which to date has seen the spending of in excess of R2billion supporting emerging farmers with infrastructure and strategic technical support is a step in the right direction and much be expanded to provied much-needed assistance to emerging enterprises to become fully operational and contribute to food security, the agricultural sector and indeed the economy. The vision that all land reform farms should be 100 % productive by the year 2015/16 must be realized.

    As we commemorate this 100 years of the vicious dispossession of the land of our people, the African National Congress calls upon government to utilize all tools at its disposal to ensure that the land redistribution programme is accelerated in the interest of all victims of land dispossession inclusive of the Khoi and San.

    Issued by:
    Jackson Mthembu
    National Spokesperson
    African National Congress

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