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Andile Mxgxitama of South Africa’s Landless People’s Movement

By Sello Mabotja
Posted on Monday, 23 November 2009 15:11

The Africa Report: Do you think that land restitution is being implemented at a desirable pace??

Andile Mngxitama, founding member of South Africa’s Landless People’s Movement: The land reform programme stands on three legs: restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. Restitution, in our context, refers to a very specific process. It gives victims of land dispossession after 1913 rights to redress, ranging from the return of stolen land, being offered alternative land, or financial compensation if the land is built up.People who were dispossessed had to lodge a claim by December 1998. Our government says restitution is 90% done, but government programmes have delivered only 5% of land back to blacks since 1994. So here you have a land reform process which doesn’t redistribute land back to people. It’s a terrible ruse. Actually, government land-reform processes reproduce apartheid and racism. You must see what sort of compensation is forced on to hapless blacks – some people walk away with a mere R500 ($67) – but whites are compensated at market value for land they had stolen.

Redistribution is actually the key programme and is based on the principle of ‘willing buyer, willing seller’. This programme doesn’t recognise that land held by whites is stolen property. It’s part of the 1994 deal to surrender the economy to whites in exchange for political office. Basically, blacks are buying back their land with assistance and loans from government, and even then landowners sell only if they want to.?Tenure reform was supposed to give people stronger tenure security, but of course since 1994, with laws that proclaim to protect farm workers, we have allowed white farmers to evict more than a million black farm workers.

What are the likely implications of an unsuccessful land restitution process??

At the current pace, we will need 90 years to redistribute 30% of the land back to blacks. Restitution itself is a strange programme which in the main doesn’t give land back; it is symbolic. There is deep resentment from black landless people which is growing and if this links up with urban dissatisfaction and a radical narrative for the return of land, you can see that we have a problem. All the ingredients of upheaval are here, we need only the spark and it won’t be that long before the fire comes.

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