Land reform crucial to reconciliation in S. Africa: president

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 17, 2018
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MTHATHA, South Africa, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday the just and equitable resolution of the land question is crucial to reconciliation in South Africa.

Land reform is inextricably tied to nation building and is key to furthering reconciliation in the country, Ramaphosa said in Mthatha, Eastern Cape Province at an event marking the Reconciliation Day, which has been celebrated on December 16 since 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity for the country.

The equitable distribution of land has been a consistent call of the overwhelming majority of South Africans, the president said.

"Access to land is a fundamental right of citizenship and is central to eliminating inequality in our society," he noted.

Land reform doesn't just empower communities and workers but also enhances food security, especially for the rural poor, Ramaphosa said, refuting criticism that land reform would drive away white farmers and threaten food security in the country.

"Far from being a measure that will fuel tensions or set race relations back, accelerated land reform has the potential to improve goodwill between the races in South Africa," said Ramaphosa.

Since taking power in February, Ramaphosa has been trumpeting land reform characterized by expropriation without compensation.

Despite mounting concern, Parliament has given the green light for amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation. A bill is expected to be introduced to legalize the process following a parliamentary debate next year.

Ramaphosa, however, complained about the slow pace in land reform.

Despite a comprehensive land reform program, the government has not made sufficient progress in addressing this issue as most of the country's land remains in the hands of the few, he said.

"On this day that we have dedicated to reconciliation, we must consider that failure to resolve the land issue in a just and equitable manner threatens the stability of our democratic nation," Ramaphosa told the cheering crowd.

It is land that has fuelled colonial conquests across the world, and it continues to play a role in many modern conflicts, the president said.

He pointed to several areas of progress, saying that when implemented correctly, and with the provision of the right support to new landowners, land restitution has significant social and economic benefits.

Earlier on Sunday, Ramaphosa visited the Rural Agro-Industries and Finance Initiative in the OR Tambo District Municipality, Eastern Cape Province.

The project has secured international investment to enable black farmers to build successful commercial enterprises using a cooperative model, according to Ramaphosa.

There have been examples of private land owners giving long-term labor tenants title deeds to the land on which they live and work; and others of organized agriculture committing to hand over parts of their land to workers, said Ramaphosa.

"It is (with) this spirit that we seek to harness a sense of responsibility to do what is right and what is just without waiting to be compelled to do so by law," he said.

The Constitution places an obligation on the state to take reasonable measures to enable citizens to access land on an equitable basis, Ramaphosa said.

He pledged to continue working with all South Africans, in a consultative and inclusive manner, to fulfil that obligation.

"We call on all stakeholders - be they organized agriculture, private land owners, workers, business, community organizations, traditional leaders or political parties - to play a constructive role," Ramaphosa said.

The proposed land expropriation without compensation has been strongly resisted by opponents who argue that the process will drive away white farmers, kill jobs and threaten food security.

But the government has repeatedly assured that it will pursue the land reform without destabilizing the agricultural sector, endangering food security in the country, or undermining economic growth and job creation. Enditem

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