SPEECHES: Deputy Minister, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo at the JL Dube Institute Land Colloquium

Date: 13 Feb 2017

Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma,

Minister of Social Development, Minister Bathabile Dlamini,

Chairperson of KZN: Traditional Leadership, Inkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza,

Executive Director of the John Langalibalele Dube Institute, Dr. Thandi Dube,

Board members of the Dr JL Dube Institute,

Academics, Researchers and Experts on land issues,

Ex-combatants of UMkhonto we Sizwe, comrades Ze and Langa Dube,

Our international guests,

Comrades and friends.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the Institute for extending an invitation to the government of the African National Congress, the ANC, to participate in this important dialogue on the contentious issue of land reform in South Africa today.

This conversation comes at a significant time. Just two days ago we would have celebrated the auspicious and exemplary life of the first leader of the African National Congress. This day also coincides with the passing on of this colossal figure with a statesman’s ability. He was a philosopher, an educator, writer and most importantly, a natural born leader who sought to affirm the rights of the black person. John Dube was vocal on the issue of ownership and occupation of land by natives and other persons, and was a strong force of defiance to the demeaning and segregative policies.

I would like to commend the Dr JL Dube Institute for the sterling work in upholding the legacy of this activist leader over the years and ensuring that his values and vision for our people live on. This land colloquium illustrates an impassioned commitment to this area of work which has defined the very essence of our centuries’ long anti-colonial struggle.

The government of the African National Congress has declared 2017 as the year of Oliver Reginald Tambo, a bold revolutionary who was also a force of defiance that introduced a new spirit of militancy in resistance to the policies of the government of the day. He would have turned 100 years this year.

In his honour 2017 has been assigned the year of unity in action inspired by the values OR stood for. This is based on his belief that the future of South Africa belonged to the majority of its people, black and white, who in struggle, were laying the foundations of a united, non-racial and a democratic country.

As we reflect on the life of John Langalibalele Dube, his contribution to the issue of black land rights and the current context of land reform, it is significant that we also reflect on legacy of Oliver Reginald Tambo and the similarities of these tireless leaders of our liberation struggle.

Both leaders, were strong forces of defiance. Both demonstrated a love for knowledge creation and education in that they both built schools, the Ohlange Institute by Dube and SOMAFCO by Tambo. This was due to their belief that education was a necessary tool to empower our people and to build a strong nation.

With a strong belief that knowledge is power, both leaders were active in the dissemination of information through mass media and both used these platforms to advance their ideologies and to advance the objectives of the liberation struggle. In this regard, President Dube along with his first wife, founded a newspaper and what is now Ilanga lase Natal Newspaper. In Tambo’s time as president, he spearheaded publications such as the ANC’s Sechaba, the Women’s Section titled Voice of Women and Dawn which was a publication of the uMkhonto weSizwe.

On the land issue, Oliver Tambo began articulating a more strident form of political action by the 1940’s with the view that restriction of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended and that land be divided among those who work on it to banish famine and land hunger.

Delivering a statement at the World Consultation of the World Council of Churches, President Tambo reflected on racism as a product of the colonisation of our people by European power. He reflected that "The first was to justify the seizure of our country, our land wealth by the colonisers. The second was to establish the basis for the transformation of the dispossessed millions of our people into instruments of labour for the enrichment of the colonisers. The third was to legitimise the exclusive concentration of political power in the hands of the colonial and settler oligarchy".

Perhaps it is fitting to start today’s reflections from the beginning and recall the heroic struggle fought by our ancestors in defence of their land and their humanity against the rapacious colonial conquerors. The long and painful wars of resistance and dispossession against the African people shall remain a constant reminder of the brutality and greed of the coloniser and the heroic spirit and resilience of our forebears.

These African warriors and pioneers of our revolutionary struggle left us a proud legacy of heroism and unrelenting struggle against colonialism and land dispossession. They dared to shed the last drop of their blood in battle and refused to accept subjugation as a way of life in the land of their birth. The heroic battles fought by Ngqika and Sandile of the AmaXhosa, King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho, Moletsane of the Bataung, Mzilikazi of AmaNdebele, Sekonyela and Chieftainess Mmanthatisi of the Batlokwa, Mpande and Cetshwayo of the AmaZulu among others, continue to inspire our own generation in the fight against colonial legacy of land dispossession and serve as proud moments of our historical archive.

Not least among the fight against land dispossession is the sterling contribution made by the patron of this revered Institute, Dr Langalibalele Dube. From the humble but courageous beginnings of the formation of the Natal Native Congress, to his ultimate Presidency of the African Native National Congress in 1912, Dube’s vision to restore the dignity of the African was both steadfast and unrelenting.

Fuelled by the devilish formation of the Union government and the subsequent 1913 land act which sought to systematically render Africans landless, Dube led his peers in a spirited journey of resistance. In fact, the formation of the ANC itself was a direct response to the mooted seizure of 87% of the indigenous land by the colonizers. Would I be remiss to say the ANC has a moral obligation and responsibility to the people of our country to return 80% of land to the people from whom land was dispossessed? Am I being radical? The burden of land ownership proof should never be ours, those who today claim ownership must proof that land was actually paid for in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Throughout his adult life, Dube never ceased to deploy both his intellect and humanitarian vision to the upliftment of his people and consequently that of his native land. The proud establishment of the Ohlange Institute, whose contribution to the education of the African child still endures to this day and the founding of Ilanga lase Natal newspaper as a fountain of knowledge to plead the African story, speaks of his tenacity and resilience as a leader and great pioneer of our struggle for all forms of freedom.

We will forever be grateful for the role that he played together with his peers in challenging the colonial system and its establishment but also for their pioneering spirit as the founding father of our revolution.

We are recounting these historical events to drive the point home that the struggle for land has always been the cardinal mission of our liberation struggle. The opportunistic and misguided claims by the latecomers to our revolution today that the ANC has neither passion nor commitment to the struggle for land lacks historical validity. I need not remind you ladies and gentlemen that it was the ANC that brought together activists and human rights campaigners from all walks of life in Kliptown in 1955.

In this historic occasion, correctly labelled as the Congress of the People, the ANC reignited the flames of the struggle against landlessness. The Freedom Charter, which became the product and guiding principle document for the plight of the oppressed declared that:

"The land shall be shared among those who work it. Restrictions of land ownership on racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger; the state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers;

Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land; all shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose; and People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labour and farm prisons shall be abolished."

In the third decade of our democratic dispensation, we have to ask the penetrating question; how far have we gone as the movement for change in the realisation of this African dream and does our pace inspire the confidence in our people?

Waking up to the dreadful news of the coming into law of the 1913 Land Act, the then Secretary of the ANC, Sol Plaatjie exclaimed; "the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth"

What is the position of the South African native today in relation to the land question? It is a fact that despite the efforts of the democratic government to address the landlessness of our people, a lot of productive commercial land and prime residential land is still in white hands. It is inexcusable that in the third decade of our freedom, the state only owns a mere 14% of the country’s land with 79% being in private hands which by all accounts points to white people. As a government, we are now more than ever called upon to take the bull by its horns and return the land to its rightful owners. Our government has to do so, not because it has now become fashionable to sing and dance about land but because the time has come that the majority of our people benefited equally from the resources provided by their own land, and to move towards closing the circle of the revolution so many died for.

This sense of urgency to return land back to our people is reflected in the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Jacob Zumba last week. In his speech, President Zuma reflected that it would be difficult if not impossible, to achieve true reconciliation until the land question has been resolved.

Our pursuit for economic justice through the resolution of the land question can no longer be a dream of tomorrow, but a reality of today. To this end government has resolved to expedite the process of bringing the expropriation bill into law. As you are aware, this bill has been sent back to Parliament for reconsideration. Once passed, it will grant the Minister the right to expropriate in the national interest.

In particular, it provides that the Minister may, subject to the obligation to pay compensation which is just and equitable, expropriate property for a purpose connected with the execution of his or her mandate or upon request by an organ of state.

What is critical to note is that we cannot speak about the purchase of land based on market price and willing buyer willing seller policy, not taking into cognisance that primarily what is being sold was stolen in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen we are a majority party in government and the time is now to use our might to push for a new dispensation in land reform. We must seriously explore the route of land expropriation without compensation. We need to emphasize the point that we are not advocating for chaos or mindless uprising on these matters. As a responsible government with the welfare of its people in all its facets at heart, we have to explore all legal means to achieve these objectives.

Gatherings such as these provide impetus to the struggle for access to land and thus deal once and for all with the scourge of poverty and want. We are extremely delighted for your efforts in this regard and would like to unequivocally support your call and submission to parliament for the removal of section 27(5) of the Constitution which sets a cut-off date of June 1913 as yardstick for land claims.

Whereas the ANC has been campaigning for an exception to 1913, to accommodate the Khoi and the San in this regard, we are fully behind any calls that advocate for the total removal of 1913 as a cut-off date. Our people have suffered for too long and we can no longer stand idle and nurse the feelings of those who want to hold on to white privilege to the exclusion of the rest. Land dispossession dates even further back than 1913, when the Natives Land Act was passed. It is therefore more crucial that we seek to restore the dignity of our people who have for hundreds of years been removed from their ancestral land.

Similarly, we should expedite the law that seeks to ban foreign ownership of agricultural land. The threats about investor confidence and other excuses from the opposition benches who want to hold on to the status quo can no longer be entertained at the expense of our people. It is urgent that we the ANC government must move speedily on these questions so that we achieve the historical mission of our forebears.

These far reaching initiatives do not discount the efforts of the South African government which embarked on an ambitious land reform programme. You will recall that government aimed at redistributing 30% of white-owned commercial agricultural land by 2014 to black South Africans and settling all claims for redistribution (almost 80 000) by 2005.

To date, only 10% of the redistribution target has been achieved by the state. We cannot continue like this if we want to address the serious poverty engulfing our people. We do welcome the reopening and extension of the land claims program for another 5 years, but that is not enough.

We have a historical mandate and responsibility to address issues of economic advancement and equity for the poor people of South Africa. It is in this context that we invite all compatriots to join us in our crusade to address this nemesis that has saddled the hump of our freedom for decades.

It is indeed that every day that passes without democratising our economy and land breeds conditions that threaten national cohesion and the national question, peace among our people and in fact it is a security threat.

We dare not fail the millions of our people who have no other hope or refuge but the courage and resilience of our forebears who took up arms to defend their dignity and livelihood.

I thank you!

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