South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the government is commencing a “massive” land redistribution program during a ceremony announcing the handing over of 4,586 hectares of land to the community of KwaMkhwanazi near Empangeni Sunday.
“We are making history and celebrating the return of your land today. We are righting the historic injustice and returning the land to its rightful owners,” the president said.
He also promised to speed up the land reform proposed by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) this year. “We are commencing a rolling mass land distribution program in our country. We will be returning land in a massive way. This Mkhwanazi land is the first‚” the president said.
The KwaMkhwanazi community had been evicted from their lands in several phases. The first time, after World War I and the second time in the 1940s when white farmers expanded their commercial cane and timber operations.
“Today we are making history‚ celebrating the return of the land to our people in this area,” said the president.
A total of 1‚656 claimants will now regain ownership of their ancestral land. They will also receive title deeds post-settlement packages and other support to harness the potential of the land.
The land reform became a widely debated issue in South Africa since Ramaphosa’s government announced their plan to change the constitution which would allow the expropriation of land from white farmers without compensation. The expropriated land would be redistributed to the landless Black majority.
This invoked widespread criticism and discussions internationally which raised issues of alleged violence against white farmers.
But Ramaphosa maintained that the ANC had been formed in 1912 with a vision of resisting land dispossessions and that principal remained the core pillar of the party.
“Right now our government is fully empowered to deal with the land question and we will move forward with great speed and determination to address the land challenge.
“This comes at a time when the attention of our nation is focused on the correction of the original sin of land dispossession. We will admit that over a number of years we have been rather slow and tardy, and the process has been delayed by a number of reasons. What we are doing today should have been done a number of years ago‚” he said.