If the ANC wanted to give land to the people of Mkhondo, they would have - Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says land claims registered in 1998 are no nearer to being resolved than they were back then

If the ANC wanted to give land to the people of Mkhondo, they would have

Note to Editors: the following remarks were delivered by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mmusi Maimane, at a public meeting in Mkhondo, Mpumalanga, today.

My fellow South Africans, people of Mkhondo.

I have just come from an engagement with a large number of traditional leaders from various communities in this region. During this meeting we discussed the ongoing and unresolved issues around land, as well as the lack of recognition of many of these leaders as chiefs on their own land.

What became very clear during this meeting is that the ANC government does not have the will to resolve the issue of land in this area. The land claims registered here 20 years ago in 1998 are no nearer to being resolved than they were back then.

This is partly because it is a complex land issue, dating back to when the border between SA and Swaziland was drawn up. But many land claims in our country are complex – we cannot allow this to deter us in our efforts to return the land to the people with a rightful claim. But the main reason why this has dragged on for so many years is because it is not in the ANC’s interest to empower the Swazi people living on these lands with ownership.

Forget what the ANC says in the media about land reform and land restitution. Forget about President Ramaphosa’s promises and commitments. Words mean nothing until you put them into action. And when judged on their actions, it is clear that this ANC government has no desire to give these communities ownership of their land.

Land reform is about addressing injustice, but it is also about restoring dignity and recognising culture and history. Often people have ancestors buried on the land and it is important to stay connected to this history.

The leaders I met today have been asking for decades now for the land – large parts of which are owned by the state – to be returned to the traditional houses who occupy it. They have also been asking for decades that these houses and their chiefs be recognised on their land, and that they be allowed to practice their Swazi culture.

And while the ANC has spent two and a half decades dragging its feet on the land claim, they have let the towns and villages here deteriorate to a point where the conditions are barely liveable. Amsterdam has become an indigent town. Unemployment has skyrocketed, many businesses have closed down or moved away and the last bank here shut its doors. There isn’t even a sewer system in Amsterdam, and the Small Town Regeneration project promised back in 2016 never happened.

I am told the ANC is only visible here before elections, when they roll into town with food parcels. Because that’s all that the people in these communities mean to them: easy votes. And it’s the same with the community leaders they installed here – they are simply being used by the ANC to deliver votes in exchange for patronage. It is crucial that there is transparency in the allocation and recognition of traditional leadership. Because when this is done through back room deals, corruption is sure to follow.

I have given the chiefs I met today an undertaking that the DA will help take their fight further. I assured them that when we say we want to empower people through ownership of their own land, we mean it. Unlike the ANC, who say one thing to the media, but do another when it comes to actually transferring land ownership.

And also unlike the EFF who have no intention of ever giving people ownership of the land. They want the state to own it all and make the people permanent tenants on their own land. That’s not empowerment. That’s just permanent serfdom.

It is important that people don’t fall for either the ANC or the EFF’s rhetoric on land, because for the ANC it’s little more than an election strategy, and for the EFF it’s a shortcut to the misery and poverty of a country like Venezuela. Their calls for land grabs must be strongly condemned, because if we give up on the rule of law it will harm everyone.

The only party that has shown it is truly committed to meaningful land reform is the DA. We’re doing it in the Western Cape, where our land reform projects have a far higher success rate than anywhere else. We’re doing it in the Eastern Cape where we’re helping a community in Gwatyu in their fight with government for land ownership. We’re doing it in Limpopo where we’re helping Mr David Rakgase fight a landmark court case for the right to own his farm. And we will do it here in Mpumalanga with you too.

Over the next year you will hear many stories from the ANC and the EFF about land. It is important that you don’t confuse an election strategy with a workable plan. And if you’re serious about real land ownership, with title deed, there is only one party fighting in your corner, and that party is the DA.

Thank you.

Issued by the DA, 25 August 2018