NERPO Press Releases

Media statement by Minister Nkwinti at a post SoNA media briefing.

The year 2013 marks the 100 years of the notorious Natives' Land Act of 1913, which turned Africans into exiles in their own land. This law was part of the brutal repertoire of instruments of oppression used by colonialists in the 19th Century to take land from indigenous populations.

This law incorporated territorial segregation into legislation for the first time since Union in 1910. The Act confined Africans, in particular, to 13% of the land, with dire social consequences, which are still with us today. As Sol Plaatje wrote that it made the Black "not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth".

The law created reserves for Blacks and prohibited the sale of White territory to Blacks and vice versa. In effect, over 80% went to White people, who made up less than 20% of the population. The Act stipulated that Black people could live outside the reserves only if they could prove that they were in White employment. Although the law was applicable to the whole of South Africa, in practice it applied only to the Transvaal and Natal.

According to debates in Parliament at the time, the Act was passed in order to limit friction between White and Black, but Blacks maintained that its aim was to meet demands from White farmers for more agricultural land and force Blacks to work as labourers.

Ordinarily, there could be no appropriate, civilized, manner in which this Act could be marked, for, it cannot be celebrated. Doing so would be to rub salt to the wound but, it cannot be ignored either, because its dire social consequences are a constant reminder that radical action is required to arrest those consequences.

It is inconceivable that after a century of struggle, and after 18 years of democracy, social relations in the countryside can continue to mirror the patterns of apartheid. The broad mission remains: to restore land, human dignity and respect to all South Africans. The Constitution requires that the State must realise the restitution of land rights for those who were dispossessed by the 1913 law.

As the department we are committed and we would like to reiterate our unwavering commitment to restore and settle all outstanding restitution claims. The land restitution programme, which is implemented in line with the Restitution of Land Rights Act (Act 22 of 1994), is a key initiative which is contributing towards reconciliation and nation building.

All restitution and land reform projects are now accompanied by a viable business plan which includes training, mentorship, partnerships and other forms of support. All of this is guided by the three principles underpinning land reform:

• De-racialisation of the rural economy for shared and sustainable growth;

• Democratic and equitable land allocation and use across gender, race and class; and

• Strict production discipline for guaranteed national food security.

As the department, our task is two-fold: to restore the land to the people, which is a political and moral imperative; but at the same time to restore people to a practical knowledge of the land which is an economic and developmental necessity. This reflects a crucial shift from the approach of hand-outs and social grants to a productive model of development which stresses empowering and skilling people to create their own employment opportunities.

We have been under severe criticism recently regarding the fact that we will not reach the target of transferring the 30 percent of land back by the end of next year, which is what we have conceded.

However, our priorities have shifted to more emphasis on food security. We are now less concerned about the quantity of hectares redistributed but about the recapitalisation and development of redistributed land so as to have sustainable food production.

This is the reason why we introduced the Recapitalisation and Development programme in 2010 which has since ensured technical and material support to land reform projects.
Presently, we have recapitalised 596 farms which are 100 percent productive and have created 4 999 jobs.

We have set ourselves the year 2016 when all land reform farms would be 100 percent productive.

We also want to emphasise that, improving service delivery in Land Reform and Restitution is not an option but a must. Issues of improved service delivery to our people are receiving serious attention by this current administration and my department is no exception to this. This government has adopted the National Development Plan as a blue print that should guide this country to a better economic trajectory by 2030, so for this plan to become a reality, all of us should make our meaningful contribution.

The cabinet has approved the establishment of the Office of the Valuer-General which is going to help us in making sure that there is a fair pricing of Land parcels. We have also completed the auditing of both State and private land.

Last month, the ruling party issued what is known as the January 8 Statement in Durban and issues of Rural Development and Land Reform found expression in that statement. Subsequent to that during the State of The Nation Address last week, the president of the republic also spoke at length about the issues of Land Reform particularly the re-opening of the Land Claims process, so members of the Media, based on these two pronouncement by the president, it cannot be business as usual.

As the department, we are fully aware about the mammoth task in front of us, particularly within the context of the re-opening of the Land claims process and we want to assure South Africans that we are equal to the challenge. In working together we must do more to improve the quality of life of our people.

Many claimants have passed on; waiting for the day their claims would come through so we must pull all our collective skills, experiences, efforts together to succeed.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, "To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity".

The department wishes to clarify, as correctly stated by the President, that the re-opening of lodgement of claims and the provision of exceptions to the 1913 cut-off date shall take place once amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994 have been signed into law by the President.

Members of the public are therefore informed that until the amendments referred to above come into effect neither the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform nor the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights is empowered to accept new land claims. A manual in all 11 official languages, on how to lodge a claim, shall be published once the amendments to the Restitution Laws have been passed by Parliament.

Mtobeli Mxotwa
Cell: 083 578 9023
Issued by: Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)
22 Feb 2013