New beginnings for dispossessed families

Saturday, March 9, 2019

At the age of 67, July Malobola from Soshanguve vividly remembers the day his family was locked out from the land they had occupied since 1800, and attempts by his father to get it back were futile.

Malobola’s family was dispossessed of their right to land as a result of the 1913 Land Act.

However, unlike 1967 when the family’s eight households left their homes in tears, Saturday marked a new beginning for Malobola after receiving a title deed for their land at Klipkop in Tshwane, thanks to the government’s Restitution and Land Reform Programme.

President Cyril Ramaphosa handed over title deeds for 10 land claims in Gauteng that were lodged before 31 December 1998. The ceremony was held at Moretele Recreational Park in Mamelodi, Tshwane.

Holding his title deed in his hands, a visible excited Malobola said he wished that his father was still alive to witness the fruits of a democratic government.

“He fought very hard to get his forefathers land back, and I wish he was still alive and able to walk on his land again. I’m lost for words, but I thank the government for making this dream a reality,” said an emotional Malobola.

Another beneficiary, whose family was forcefully removed from Kilnerton in 1956, Fortune Zino, said he was happy to be alive and be part of the day’s celebration.

“I’m happy about the government of today … this will benefit our next generation who will be able to come and view the tombstone erected on our land. It is important for us to know our roots,” said Zino.

Land reform mandated by the Constitution

Speaking at the ceremony, President Ramaphosa emphasised that land reform is mandated by the Constitution and necessitated by the country’s past.

“It is important that we approach this task in an integrated and comprehensive manner – covering restitution, redistribution and tenure reform – to ensure that the land can be shared among those who work it and among those who need it,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said that by restoring the land to people, government is determined that agricultural production should increase and food security should improve.

The President said government is also working to ensure that an environment exists for sustained agricultural growth, especially through support to young emerging black farmers.

“We are working to ensure that where it is possible to return the land to claimants, and where they want to return to the land, that we provide the necessary support to enable them to make productive use of the land. This is an important part of correcting the extremely skewed pattern of land ownership and land use in this country.

“It is an important part of developing black farmers who can build viable businesses, create work and contribute to an agricultural revolution. Our policies recognise that the restoration of land is not always possible and make provision for compensation to be paid instead of land,” the President said.

This compensation, he said, should enable claimants to acquire other assets that can be used to retain and generate value, “that can be part of our efforts over the last 25 years to address the dire levels of asset poverty among our people”.

As we accelerate the pace of land reform, the President added that government is also focused on improving the quality and the impact of the country’s interventions.

Working faster to clear land claims backlog

He said government is working to ensure that land claims are settled much faster, and that they clear the backlog in the shortest possible time.

“At the same time, we are working on better ways to ensure that the beneficiaries of restitution – like the beneficiaries of land redistribution – receive the necessary post-settlement support. We will never fully heal the wounds of dispossession and degradation, but we are making ever greater strides in redressing the injustices visited on our people in the past.”

He however, reminded that land reform, is ultimately about the future, it is about building a South Africa which belongs to all who live in it, and in which all South Africans belong.

“It is about creating new livelihoods in agriculture and ending rural poverty. Land reform is also about building cities and towns that are integrated, where the poor have decent housing in areas close to economic opportunities.”

Economic asset

Meanwhile, speaking at the wreath laying memorial held in Kilnerton, ahead of the handing over ceremony, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said it is important to share information on what the beneficiaries are doing with the portion of land, post land claim.

“Land is not only for agricultural use, but an economic asset and should be enjoyed by all South Africans,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

The beneficiaries of restitution settlements are Dukathole community from Driefontein in Ekurhuleni and the Ebenezer Congregational Church in Johannesburg, Mathabe family from Boekenhoutskloof, the Franspoort community, the Msiza family from Hondsrivier, the Kafferskraal community, the Mahlangu and Ntuli families from Tweefontein, and the Rodman community from Vygeboschlaagte in Tshwane. –