20 June 2019

South Africa: Ramaphosa - We're Still Living With the 'Devastating' Impact of Native Land Act

President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose administration will most likely be defined by how his government deals with the land question, opened his second State of the Nation Address of 2019 by looking back 106 years to the day the Native Land Act was enacted, noting that the "effect of that law are still present with us".

The act, which came into law in 1913, effectively barred black South Africans from owning or renting land in almost all parts of the country.

South African History Online notes that the act "laid down the foundation for other legislation which further entrenched dispossession of African people and segregation later of Coloured and Indian people".

The land question and the subsequent debate over expropriation without compensation has gripped the nation, and has drawn comments from politicians, economists, business, lobby groups and ordinary South Africans.

In opening his address, Ramaphosa described the legislation as "one of the most devastating acts of dispossession, pain and humiliation".

The president quoted the comments of Sol Plaatje, a founding member of the South African National Native Congress: "Awakening on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth."

Ramaphosa added that, over "a century after that grave injustice, we are called upon to forge a South Africa where no person will be slave or pariah, only free and equal and respected".

In February, Ramaphosa told foreign investors at a conference that they had "nothing to fear", saying government wouldn't take away their land, after asking them to plough their money into the country, Fin24 reported.

The president has handed the tough task of leading government's research, communication and implementation of land policy to Thoko Didiza.

Didiza was appointed minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development when Ramaphosa announced his cabinet last month.

She had previously served as agriculture and land affairs minister under Thabo Mbeki between 1999 and 2006.

Earlier this month, Ramaphosa received a report from the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, which he appointed in September last year.

On Thursday evening, he said the report would now be presented to Cabinet for consideration.

"The panel's recommendations will inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme," said the president.

He also said government would "accelerate efforts to identify and release public land that is suitable for smart, urban settlements and for farming".

Source: News24

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