The land debate is very close to turning to anarchy, but we have a chance to save it.
With these words minister of mineral resources Gwede Mantashe opened the national forum for dialogue on land.
Acknowledging that the topic of land, and more specifically that of expropriation of land without compensation, can get emotional, Mantashe said this must be embraced.
“In these debates we must touch on the emotional aspects of land dispossession because if we are not talking about them then we will not heal,” Mantashe said.
“You can’t discuss the land question without going through a painful process, and we don’t want to make anyone feel bad. The intention is that we should come to the party and appreciate the sensitivities about the land issue.”
With much of his address focused on the historical aspects of land dispossession, Mantashe said that this was what excited him the most about the discussions that were to come.
“These pieces of history are important because history gets distorted all the time, and because of this we can’t talk to one another.”
This lack of understanding is what perpetuates fear-mongering and distress among citizens, Mantashe said.
Instead he suggested that South Africans talk to each other, listen and understand the complexities of the land question.
“We should understand the fear of those who sit on the land when we talk about expropriation without compensation ... it is not a policy to drive whites into the sea, that has never been the policy of the ANC and will never be the policy of the ANC. It’s about fair distribution of land and access to that land.”
Mantashe also made mention of two land owners who owned vast amounts of land in the Eastern Cape, saying that these people were just greedy.
“We will deal with this greed, greed is dangerous.”
The mining minister also touched on mining land where the minerals were extracted but the land on top remained barren. Mantashe said that this land must be used productively because it couldn’t remain unused when the hunger for land was this desperate.
“You can’t leave that land barren because there are minerals underneath. Go underground and take the minerals but use the surface land.”
This productive use of land, he stressed, was not only for agricultural land but also for urban use. He said that people who were given land must be followed up on to make sure that the land was used productively.
Mantashe ended off by saying that the debate must also touch on the size of lands in relation to productivity. By way of example he mentioned that two of his children were involved with chicken farming.
“They don’t need 500 hectares of land, they need maybe 10 hectares to farm productively and to make sufficient money to survive ... because this myth of mega-farms that are the future must be demystified.”
With all the focus on new land reform minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Mantashe had some advice for her, saying that she was taking over a very difficult portfolio.
“That portfolio has the programmes but the problem with it is that it is regulated by the bureaucracy and in a way it destroys the intention.”