Zuma gives amakhosi rude awakening on land claims

2015-03-05 20:25

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President Jacob Zuma has rebuked traditional leaders for ignoring his advice to make land claims on behalf of their subjects.

Zuma gave the leaders a heads up in February last year, four months before the government re-opened the land claims process when he advised them to pull resources together, hire legal representatives who will process the land claims on behalf of ordinary people.

This was during the same week that the National Assembly passed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill which sought to re-open the land restitution process with a new December 31 2018 deadline for land claims.

Zuma, speaking at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament this morning, said he was worried that his advice was ignored and that he has heard nothing since he offered it.

Generally, the occasion is an event of mutual praise singing between Zuma and the traditional leaders, but this time around they seemed taken aback by the harsh words from the president.

He said for the government to eradicate poverty, one of the critical requirements was access to land.

Speaking off the cuff, Zuma said: “At some point when I was here opening this house, when there was reopening of the claims to continue claiming land, I urged the traditional leaders to adopt a different approach rather than just [having] individual, isolated communities claiming land [as] some of the communities do not have money to pay lawyers.”

Zuma said the lawyers were the ones who could help these communities present their case “very well” so that the claims could be done properly.

“I requested that we should all come together as traditional leaders and have one set of lawyers that we can all contribute to. They can deploy themselves in different ways so that there is no area that remains in the wrong hands just because the people were too poor to have lawyers to help them to claim,” he said.

“It’s also so that the claims could be done properly and not emotionally because emotionally we can make a huge claim and want half of South Africa but you might not even get a piece of it,” said Zuma in clear reference to King Goodwill Zwelithini who is claiming rights to a huge tract of urban and rural land including Durban, parts of the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State through the Ingonyama Trust.

“All you need are people who will use the existing constitution and the law to claim appropriately and to speak on behalf of those who were disadvantaged for a long time,” said Zuma.

Zuma said the hired lawyers would ensure that there is no piece of land that has not been claimed legitimately.

“I made this request and I think it is important because if you do so, you will have qualified researchers who must do a thorough research and collect information about what happened to the land.

“I’m emphasising this point because I haven’t heard that there has been any initiative taken by the collective leadership of the traditional leaders since we spoke about it. I haven’t heard.”

He warned that: “We can’t do as we did when we were invaded, when we fought as different groups and we were defeated one by one before we were colonised”.

Zuma, in suggesting that the traditional leaders were failing to do their work, added that when the houses of traditional leaders were established by democracy it was “thought it was important to help traditional leaders to be organised because they have got similar interest and so that they can tackle the challenges that face traditional areas together”.

He said claiming back the land was an example for such a common matter.

“We can’t do as out great grandfathers did, not to be organised because if we are not organised we would be defeated.

“I am making that request once again. The cut-off date is 2019. You still have time. I am telling you 2019 is going to come and go and you will still be complaining because you are not organised.”

Zuma said he was stressing the point because he was worried. “I have never heard the provincial houses or the national house discussing the issue saying how do we tackle this issue commonly.”

He warned that if the tradition leaders failed to heed his advice, the 2019 cut off date for land claims will “come and go” and nothing would have changed for people who want to claim land.

Zuma also called on traditional leaders to participate in the land-related bills that will be tabled in Parliament later this year.

Turning to food security, Zuma said the government was working hard to resolve the land question because land is necessary for food security.

He appealed to the traditional leaders to drive their communities back to self-sufficiency where each household was able to use its backyard piece of land to produce food.

Zuma called on the traditional leaders to encourage their people to till their land in rural areas instead of moving to big cities where they end up living in shacks.

He said people had become too lazy to work their land and ensure they can put food on the table.

Traditional leaders will debate Zuma’s speech in Parliament next Tuesday.

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