‘South Africans restless over land’ — MP

In a recent debate on agriculture and land affairs, African National Congress (ANC) National Council of Provinces (NCOP) member, Rev Peter Moatshe, said pressure was mounting for the government to take action towards returning land to those who were dispossessed. He said the process should be urgently accelerated, as dispossessed and marginalised South Africans were “running out of patience”. “The people who are yearning for land are running out of patience. Unless we are blind…not to read between the lines…the pressure (for urgent land redistribution) is coming,” Moatshe said. The MP’s statements have come amid mounting pressure over the South African government’s “cautious” approach to the land redistribution exercise, an approach state officials have said is deliberately designed to avoid the rushed redistribution witnessed in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Moatshe urged the parliamentary land committee to put in place measures to force “those who have land” into sharing it with the “rightful owners” who were dispossessed of their land in the apartheid era “before it was too late”. He also accused the current possessors of land of refusing “to comply to (sic) the sentiments of the Freedom Charter that we shall share this land”. “It is very much important that those who have the land and those who do not have the land must come to a point of agreement that the land shall be shared by those who occupy it. These imbalances cannot be allowed to continue for ever,” he said. The North West province member’s intense speech had other MP’s nodding in agreement, as concerns have gradually mounted over South Africa’s moves with regard to land redistribution. While sentiment in the county is generally concerted over the decision to redistribute land equally between minority white farmers and majority blacks, there has been division over how the process should be carried out. “It must be done properly. What we do not want is a situation like the one in Zimbabwe where there were mistakes and they had to do it again. They did the right thing, and that is what we also want but we must do it right,” said 38 year old Aaron Ramopahle. Moatshe also made reference to the bible in his speech, citing a bible reference from Leviticus that referred to a “jubilee” return of land to its rightful owners after 50 years. “When you read Leviticus … it talks of the jubilee year. The land shall go back to the rightful owners…the jubilee year is now long overdue” he said. Moatshe, who is the chairman of the parliamentary land affairs committee, described South Africa’s land restitution budget as “a drop in the ocean”, saying much more funding would be required if the country was going to achieve its goals. He said it would be an extremely challenging task for the country to address the legacy of dispossession that had taken place in 1652, when the first Dutch settler, governor Jan van Riebeck arrived in the country. According to Moatshe, who is also a religious minister, there was very much doubt that the government could achieve its target of placing at least 30 percent of the land in South Africa in the hands of indigenous people by 2015. He stressed that in order to achieve this, the land-reform programme would need to be “considerably accelerated”. However the country’s government has already posted some successes in its vision towards restitution. 86.2 percent of the 79 000 land claims received by the government have already been settled, and according to Moatshe, only 10 977 claims are still outstanding, of which 2 922 are in urban areas while 8 055 are in rural areas. These are expected to be settled in 2007 and 2008, Moatshe said.

June 2006
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