100 years of the Native Land Act

Hopes that the ANC government would reverse the ravages of the 1913 Land Act have come to almost nothing says Dinga Sikwebu.
Introduction Wednesday the 19th of June 2013 marked exactly a centenary after the Native Land Act was passed. The Act limited black African land ownership to 7% which later increased to 13, 6% through the 1936 Native Trust and Land Act of South Africa, although black Africans made up two-thirds of South Africa’s population.
Aptly describing the effect of the Act in his book Native Life in South Africa (1916), Sol Plaatje had this to say; Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah [outcast] in the land of his birth.
The Native Land Act was not the first and the last act of land dispossession in South Africa. It was preceded by two centuries of land grabs and theft. It also opened floodgates for the most brutal campaign to move black people from their land and from their properties.
The explanatory memorandum to the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill published on 23 May 2013 says; It is estimated that at least 3.5 million people were forcibly removed from their land as a result of colonisation and apartheid laws after 19 June 1913.
These figures, according to the explanatory memorandum exclude those that were moved on the basis of ‘betterment scheme policies’ in reserves and so-called homelands by various central and Bantustan governments under the guise of combating the deterioration of natural resources and decline of agricultural development in South Africa’s rural areas.
Unfortunately and tragically, the effects of the 1913 Native Land Act that Sol Platjee brilliantly and eloquently described are still with us today. Ownership of land is still in the hands of few and a handful of conglomerates monopolise food production and agro-processing chains. Although the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) called for the redistribution of 30% of agricultural land within the first five years of the land redistribution programme, the date for meeting this target has shifted from the “first five years of the programme” to 2014. To date only 7% of actual land has been distributed. Also, most of the land distributed is not being used productively.
An ANC discussion paper prepared for the organisation’s policy conference in June 2012 admits that “currently most of the farms redistributed are struggling financially, faced with huge debts, poor infrastructure, lack of adequate support, conflicts within the large group projects, poor skills development and numerous other problems”.
In his State of the Nation Address (SoNA) President had to admit, without offering an alternative year to 2014 as the target date, that “we will not be able to meet our redistribution targets”. What we are left with is the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s Green Paper on Land Reform that has slowly been making its way through the policy-making pipeline since 2011.
We also have the National Development Plan (NDP) that pleads with us to rely for land reform on the benevolence of white commercial farmers who in cash or in kind will donate the other 50% of what is required to purchase 20% of readily available land (land already in the market, land of farmers under financial pressure, land of absentee landlords willing to exit and land in deceased estate) in each district municipality with commercial farming land. Instead of proposing a new target date for redistributing 30% of commercial land, the NDP counsels us with a line that “land transfer targets must be in line with fiscal and economic realities”.
It also calls for the following principles to underlie the country’s land reform programme:
• A land reform programme that will not upset land markets or business interests in the agricultural sector
• Protection of land markets against corruption, opportunism and speculation
• Creation of opportunities for white commercial white farmers to contribute to land reform The leadership of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and that of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met on 26 May 2013 and agreed to use the centenary of the 1913 Native Land Act to launch a campaign aimed at fast-tracking land redistribution in the country.
Dubbed Fast-track Land Redistribution and under the slogan: Lefatse (Land in Sesotho) … Ons soek ‘it (We want it in Afrikaans)! Mawubuye (Let it return in Nguni languages); the campaign kicked off with a Day of Action for Land Redistribution on Wednesday 19 June.
In addition to discussions on how to speed up land reform and agrarian transformation, workshops were convened to prepare for the Day of Action on 19 June. Regions and Locals came up with plans on the form of action that would take place on the day. Members would go to work with headbands inscribed with our campaign slogan: Lefatse … Ons soek ‘it! Mawubuye!
Section 25 of the Constitution on Property
(1) No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.
(2) Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application— (a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and
(b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.
(3) The amount of the compensation and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including-
(a) the current use of the property;
(b) the history of the acquisition and use of the property;
(c) the market value of the property;
(d) the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property; and (e) the purpose of the expropriation.
(4) For the purposes of this section-
(a) the public interest includes the nation’s commitment to land reform, and to reforms to bring about equitable access to all South Africa’s natural resources; and
(b) property is not limited to land.
(5) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.
(6) A person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure which is legally secure or to comparable redress.
(7) A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.
(8) No provision of this section may impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land, water and related reform, in order to redress the results of past racial discrimination, provided that any departure from the provisions of this section is in accordance with the provisions of section 36 (1).
(9) Parliament must enact the legislation referred to in subsection (6).