Cabinet has appointed a team of ministers to assist in allaying traditional leaders' concerns emerging from the current public hearings into whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to allow the state to expropriate land without compensation.
This is according to Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane who was briefing reporters in Pretoria on Cabinet's Wednesday meeting. Parliament kicked off a tour on June 26 that will see MPs hold hearings in all nine provinces until August 4, canvassing the views of South Africans on land.
While the latest land debate that has gripped South Africa has been viewed largely through a racial lens, the potential land reforms which may emerge have people across various sectors of South African society nervous.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini addressed a land imbizo in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal, on Wednesday, during which he bared his teeth at anyone who he said would try to take land owned by the crown or dissolve the Ingonyama Trust, which is the asset vehicle of the Zulu crown.
Tensions have heightened between members of the ruling party and traditional leaders. ANC national executive committee member and head of its presidency Zizi Kodwa tweeted that the governing party would not allow itself to be bullied by traditional leaders on the land issue.
Mokonyane said the team of ministers would be comprised of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana; Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; and herself.
"We appreciate the start of the process. Parliament has set up a review committee after the National Assembly passed the proposal. These hearings will take place until August and we appeal to the public to remain tolerant and participate in the hearings," said Mokonyane.
Mokonyane said Cabinet reflected on the concerns of traditional leaders regarding issues around land restitution and land expropriation. Minister Mkhize would convene a meeting with Zokwana, Nkoana-Mashabane and herself to address these, she said.
"We hope that in all that is happening around the country we are able to reach a solution where we accept the importance of the land issue, the economy, an inclusive, transformed agricultural sector and changing urban social architecture," said Mokonyane.
She added that Cabinet was confident that traditional leaders and government could discuss a solution to land dispossession, ownership imbalances and a lack of security of tenure which is in the best interests of rural communities.
"The teams will address Contralesa (Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa) and will meet with other parties including the Ingonyama Trust. Government is committed to ensuring that we focus on the dispossession of South Africans where land ownership is concerned," she said.
She urged South Africans not to conflate the current hearings with any actions that the executive takes regarding land, as government will wait until Parliament has compiled all inputs from public hearings before interacting with any evidence MPs have gathered.