Minister pleads for patience and discipline as state resolves land issue

Cape Town – Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane urged South Africans not to allow themselves to become seduced by politicians into participating in fear-mongering or illegal land occupations over government’s latest land reform efforts.

Nkoana-Mashabane was speaking to reporters in Parliament ahead of the tabling of her budget vote, saying her department would be central in implementing the directives of Parliament’s constitutional review of the state’s land expropriation provisions.

While the African National Congress government continues to address the sensitive land situation, following the party’s December conference resolution on expropriation, organisations on both sides of the political spectrum appear to be mobilising in different directions.

AfriForum is reportedly travelling internationally to lobby support in resistance to the latest land reform efforts, while Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has called for South Africans to identify and occupy whatever land they would like to use and own.

Nkoana-Mashabane said that as her department is responsible for this implementation, it is critical for South Africans to exercise patience and discipline as they wait for government to conclude its work.

“We have witnessed the illegal occupation of land and want to urge our people not to participate in these unlawful activities. We condemn these actions and call on people who may be desperate for land to be patient and wait for the processes to unfold,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

'Means to restore dignity'

She said her department considers land to be more than just a commodity, saying the ownership of land must be a means to restore dignity. Land allows participation in the main economy of the country as oppose to rendering most of the country silent observers, she said.

“Ownership of land is an economic enabler. It is not just where you plough. It is property and an enhancement of economic participation. There are systematic challenges which form barriers to land reform - water rights, equal access,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha acknowledged that land reform has been moving at a snail’s pace and that South Africans’ patience “had been tested in a big way”. However, he said that this is not an isolated challenge for the department as land reform remains a matter of various departments.

“We have now been in government for 24 years. Decisions in December do not indicate that nothing has been happening. This programme is and has been ongoing work. When the review committee reports back, we will have a clear understanding of what to do next,” said Skwatsha.

Regarding AfriForum’s latest actions, Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini said government would have preferred the group to participate in Parliament’s constitutional review process before speaking to foreign organisations about its concerns regarding land.

“AfriForum has taken its own decision to go outside and do what it chose to do. I think that it is regrettable and we would plead with them to come back home.

"We understand their views and their rights, but be a part of the discussion and come back home,” said Mashego-Dlamini.

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