Reversing the legacy of the 1913 Land Act - Gugile Nkwinti

Text of remarks by Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform to New Age breakfast, November 6 2012

Opening remarks by Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti at the New Age Breakfast show

6 Nov 2012

1. Introduction

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, both here and from various parts of our country. Our theme here today is 'Reversing the Legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act'. This Legacy speaks to a century of unfathomable hardship for black South Africans, particularly Africans.

Davenport and Hunt (Miller and Pope, pl9) put the motive behind this law succinctly when they say: The {Natives) Land Act imposed a policy of territorial segregation with a very heavy hand. It aimed specifically to get rid of those features of African land ownership and share-cropping which white farmers found undesirable, and enlarge reserves to ease congestion and facilitate the recruiting of labour for the mines.

According to Miller and Pope (2000), 'In Its primary role, as a segregating measure, the Act commenced the monstrous unfairness which was to be the norm for most of the remainder of the century.' Another SA historian, Charles van Onselen, (p 20) has the following to say about the brutal effect of the Act:

The Act was designed to eventually confine 80 percent of the country's population to the ownership or occupancy of about 13 percent of land.'

It has, therefore, been imperative that, as we intensify the struggle to reverse the Legacy of this notorious Act, we stepped back and examine the circumstances of the enactment of this Law, and its intended results. It became clear to us that the primary route to adopt in the struggle to reverse the Legacy is to review the land tenure system; and, to decongest the 13% land space by resettling people from it to the 87% historically white area.

2. The proposed Land Tenure System (LTS)

Miller and Pope put the development of any land tenure system into proper perspective when they say:

The circumstances which give rise to any system of land tenure are, of course, integral to Its history. Land tenure in any given epoch necessarily starts from the first acquisition- i.e. the circumstances which put the state in a position to allocate rights in land. In the particular case of South Africa, the reforms of the present era are by way of rectifying the wrongs of the immediate past era which, of course, must necessarily be viewed in the appropriate historical context.

The historical context, of course, is that the outcome of the conflicts, throughout the nineteenth century, 'was to put the settler- whether Afrikaner or British colonial- in a dominant position over the African peoples.' According to Miller and Pope (p 10):

By the twentieth century the combination of a strong expanding capitalist economy and a system of land tenure in which the primary feature was outright ownership, mode it possible - indeed, easy- far the dominant political and economic groups to assume and maintain overall control aver rights to land. The politically and economically disempowered African people were only accorded limited rights by concession. The nineteenth century saw social, political and economic forces working In favour of the white community with the consequence a/ relegating any policy of protecting black property rights. Some steps were taken to protect black interests but to no avail. An example is the Cape Ordinance of 1828 declaring the right of Hottentots and other free persons of colour to acquire and dispose of land.

They point out that these sort of declarations might have been noble gestures but, 'on a cynical assessment, were no more than tokenism in the prevailing circumstances.' This view is supported by Davenport and Hunt where they point out the futility of such declarations: By the time the 1828 Ordinance was promulgated it was already difficult for non-white persons ta obtain land. The situation has worsened now. No piece of land can be given to anyone without taking it away from someone else. The question is: What institutional farm will that take?

The Green Paper on Land Reform addresses this question by introducing a Four-tier Land Tenure System for the country:

2.1 State and public land- Leasehold tenure
2.2 Privately-owned land- Freehold tenure, with limited extent
2.3 Land ownership by foreign nationals- Freehold, but precarious tenure
2.4 Communal land- Communal Tenure with institutionalised use rights

3. Principles and strategic thrust underlying the Land Tenure System

There are three principles underlying the LTS:

3.1 Deracialising the rural economy
3.2 Democratic and equitable allocation and utilisation of land across race, gender and class
3.3 Sustained production discipline for food security.

The strategic thrust is growth through redistribution as envisaged, or, espoused, in the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

4. Decongesting the 13% land space

The effects of the 1913 Natives Land Act were not confined to humans. The extensive soil degradation and deforestation are a direct result of this Act. If we are to successfully and rapidly rehabilitate the soil and re-green the environment in this land space, we must resettle people, particularly those who have, notwithstanding limited space, resources and absence of state support, demonstrated ability, passion and commitment to farm.

Addressing the recent Conference of the African Farmers Association of South Africa, the President suggested, amongst other things, District Committees. Part of the function of these Committees would be to identify and select the said persons and, or, groups.

5. Institutions in support of the LTS

5.1 The Office of the Valuer-General (the OVG)
5.2 The Land Management System (the LMC)
5.3 The Land Rights Management Board and its Local Committees (LRMB/LCs)

6. The Comprehensive Rural Development Plan (CRDP)

The CRDP has three phases, which run sequentially and simultaneously:

6.1 Phase One: Meeting basic human needs
6.2 Phase Two: Rural enterprise Development
6.3 Phase Three: Agro-industries sustained and supported by markets and credit facilities

7. Proposed institution to anchor the CRDP

We propose a Rural Development Agency, underpinned by a Rural Co-operatives Financing Facility, housed by the Post Bank, because of its extensive reach, in the short-to-medium term; and, a Rural Co-operatives Bank, in the long-term. This facility would be capitalised by deposits for land reform programmes, including restitution, the National Rural Youth Service Corps (the Narysec) and rural women Crafters. It is envisaged that other rural enterprises would join this public-private¬ sector-partnership.(PPSP). It is imperative that black people took control of their country's economy; otherwise the liberation struggle would have been in vain!

The CRDP has the following key programmes:

7.1 Rural town revitalisation
7.2 Sustainable rural settlements
7.3 (Rural) social and economic infrastructure build
7.4 National Rural Youth Service Corps (the Narysec)

8. Restitution

Many South Africans, particularly those who have had their land restored to them, after Apartheid's painful forced removals, have called upon the government to re¬open the lodgment date for land claims. They say many of their former neighbours with whom they had been force-removed have not been restituted. They have either been excluded through poor research and verification by our department, or, they had failed to lodge claims. They are, also, questioning the 1913 cut-off date for considering claims to land.

In our Budget Policy Speech this year we highlighted both issues. We proposed that Cabinet consider exceptions to the 1913 cut-off date, and allow claims to be lodged on heritage sites, historical land-marks, and in the case of descendants of the Khoi and the San, because they were dispossessed long before 1913. The Cabinet has set up an Inter-ministerial Committee to consider this proposal and report to it.


In conclusion, Ladies and gentlemen, reversing the impact and the Legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act is by no means a simple task_ In many parts of the world "rural" means tranquil, peaceful and equates to a very desirable and relaxed way of life. In our country it means intolerable hardship, poverty and wasted human lives and natural resources.

Our job is to put a stop to this; to make life meaningful, productive and rewarding in rural communities. In the year ahead, led by the President, we will observe the Centenary of the 1913 Natives Land Act, with a special focus on the 191 of June when we will call upon all South Africans to mark that day as one that had set our country on a disastrous course from which it has to extricate itself. We call upon all South Africans to support the proposed way forward towards shared prosperity, relative income equality between rural and urban production and residential settings, full and decent employment as well as cultural progress.

I thank you.

Issued by  Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, November 6 2012

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