Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha: Handing over of Financial Compensation for Verulam Methodist Mission land claimants

8 Apr 2016

Leaders of our people gathered here today:
Amakhosi, grandmothers, grandfathers.
MEC C Xaba
Mayor J Nxumalo
National, provincial and local government officials.

Victors:

Representatives of the 52 households and 217 beneficiaries of the Verulam Mission Land Claim.

People who were robbed of their birthrights, robbed of their identities, robbed of their traditions, robbed of their wealth, robbed of their freedom, robbed of their dignity.

We are gathered here to celebrate your victory. Your courage and determination.  Your strength and resilience.

We are gathered to celebrate the righting of wrongs. To celebrate restitution in action, and the sight of justice being done.

Your victory is all of our victory.

It is another secure brick in the wall of this home we are building called, “Free South Africa”.

We have now settled more than 15 219 of the ±17 200 land claims received in KwaZulu-Natal Province before the 1998 cut-off date.

That’s more than 88%. It would be 100% were the claims slightly less complex to verify, were all claimants traceable and speaking with one voice.

But the 17 200 restitution claims received by the 1998 cut-off date don't tell the full story of the dispossession of our people.

That’s why a new claims window opened for five years, in mid-2014. We are very pleased to announce that KwaZulu-Natal had received more than 27 238 new claims by the end of January 2016.

But even once all those claims have been settled, we must acknowledge that many of our compatriots lost their land in the period of colonial conquest prior to the enactment of the 1913 Natives Land Act – and that these losses fall outside the restitution window.

The Road Ahead

Much work lies ahead.

Only when the dignity of all who were forced off their land and separated from the graves of their ancestors has been restored will we be able to rest.

But even then, even when we are finished the job of land reform, and enjoying our rest, we know that we won’t be able to rest for long.

For, restoring the fabric of a nation that had its soul ripped apart by 350 years of conquest and oppression will take generations.

Government is in it for the long haul

That’s why we say, in government, that we’re in it for the long haul.

We’re not Johnny-come-lately populist politicians, promising instant pudding and destroying our institutions, facilities and national integrity.

And nor are we colonial apologists who seek to use the Constitution only to the extent that it protects the apartheid status quo we inherited in 1994.

We’ve been opposing the Natives Land Act since the year before its enactment, since the formation of the ANC 104 years ago, in 1912.

It is our view, and has been since before the drafting of the Freedom Charter more than 60 years ago, that South Africa – including the land – belongs to all who live in it.

Land reform is not a nice-to-have; it is a national imperative. When South Africa truly does belong to all who live in it, all will benefit from the stability and security that will ensue.

Willing Buyer-Willing Seller

Government is sharpening the tools at its disposal to add momentum to the process.

For example, we initially hoped that landowners would buy into the prioritisation of land reform, so we pursued a policy of willing buyer-willing seller when it came to land expropriation.

We did not want anyone to feel forced to participate in the process.

But humans being humans, the owners demanded top prices for the land – that government couldn't always afford to pay.

Many felt it unfair that the same owners who profited from the exclusion of the original inhabitants of the land, should profit again on selling it back to the people.

By holding out for higher prices, the landowners were effectively putting a brake on land reform.

That’s why government dropped the willing buyer-willing seller policy. We need to speed up.

There are no plans to forcibly remove any white farmers. But nor can we sit on our hands and wait for the desperation of our people to mount to the point that drove farm invasions to the north of us.

But instead of the buyer determining the price alone, the price is determined by the market – by what is fair and equitable.

50/50 Policy framework

Another instrument we’ve been sharpening is the 50/50 Policy Framework. This new approach is already being tested on five farms in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State. More than 50 commercial farmers have expressed interest in becoming part of this program.

The policy framework seeks direct redress for farmworkers whose sweat and toil built a powerful agricultural sector in our country. Redress for those who have never profited from their labour, and whose welfare has never been considered.

A consultative process with stakeholders identified six foundation stones to underpin the policy framework:

  • Co-management of the farm enterprise on a 50/50 basis between farm owners and farm dwellers;
  • Co-ownership of the land on a 50/50 basis between farm owners and farm dwellers;
  • Co-ownership of the off-farm value chain enterprises on a 50/50 basis between farm owners and farm dwellers;

Establishing an investment and financing facility to incentivise the voluntary participation of farm owners, farm dwellers and investors in the initiative;

Ensuring that commercial farmland is used optimally and sustainably; and

Attracting investment in the sector, improving production and productivity, raising competitiveness, enhancing food security, increasing employment and incomes, and facilitating inclusivity of all stakeholders in the transformation and development of the sector.

These are not punitive processes. Nor are they vengeful.

The society we seek to create is one that creates space for all of its people, one that feeds all its people, one that acknowledges the equal worth of all its people.

An animal pen for blacks

The people who took our land didn't only want the land; they also needed our labour.

They practiced a radical brand of “baaskap”, and sought to grind any resistance into the dust.

Through a combination of dirty tricks and dirty laws, they took our parents and grandparents’ land.

The R 5 769 244 that this community will receive as financial compensation for its collective pain will not undo the misery the people have suffered. But it acknowledges their humanity. It allows for a future.

As with many other communities across the country, the Verulam Methodist Missions community was unceremoniously removed from the land that their forefathers had occupied for many years, with beneficial occupational and grazing rights. 

Along with their neighbours from surrounding areas, they derived their livelihood from agricultural farming; and had large fields for cultivation and grazing for their large herds of livestock under the leadership of Inkosi Cele, and Inkosi Ngcobo. They were economically independent. 

They lived their lives in dignity.  Such was the lifestyle of many black families before the introduction of racially discriminatory laws and practices that stripped black people in this country of their dignity, leaving them destitute and reduced to a state of paupers in a land of plenty; a land which their forefathers had inhabited since time immemorial.

The erosion of the land rights of this community was meticulously carried out in a systematic manner by a government which had no regard for a black man. Before their removal from Verulam in between the mid1960s and the early 1970s, the land which the community occupied was rezoned. 

As a result, heir plots were reduced in size and this greatly hindered their farming activities. The community found themselves in a perilous situation and were forced to sell their livestock because there simply was not enough land available for them anymore due to the rezoning of the area. 

Many families were now forced to depend on selling their labour for a wage because they could no longer make a living from their farming activities, as they had done before.

Before the forced removals of the early 1970s people of different races, cultures and religions lived together in Verulam. African, Coloureds and Indians made up one community living together. This threatened the apartheid government which decided to enforce strict racial segregation. Indians were to remain in the area.  Coloureds were forced to move to Newlands, a township allocated to coloured people only.

Africans were forced to move to the new township of Ntuzuma. Township houses were so small compared to the houses that people had in their original land, therefore, it could not accommodate all members of the family.

In this way apartheid broke our communities and divided our people. It is our task after all these years of pain, to rebuild that unity. As the Freedom Charter and our Constitution says, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it – Black and White.” This must be our guide as we build one South African nation, united in our diversity.

Today you cannot get the same land back as it is a residential and industrial area. However I urge to use the compensation money you are receiving today to invest in land, houses and education. This will be an investment for your and your children's future.

Conclusion

Today we celebrate the handing over R 5 769 244 in financial compensation.

For the claimants, the hard work starts now. You must use this money wisely to re-build your lives and our nation.

We are very proud of you. We take great heart from your victory.

Thank you.

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