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“Land Reform is an important part of national reconciliation and nation building,” asserted Zuma while handing over 13,184 hectares of previously white-owned land to the black N’wandlamhlarhi Community in Mpumalanga Province.
“This important occasion takes place just a day after the 102nd anniversary of the African National Congress (ANC), the liberation movement that made it its mission to fight for the return of the land to the dispossessed masses of our people,” Zuma said.
South Africa’s notorious 1913 Land Act and many other apartheid laws facilitated wresting land control from the indigenous African people.
The handover is seen as a major step by the ANC towards land reforms, a tough task facing the ruling ANC.
“It is being handed over during a year in which we mark 20 years of freedom and democracy in our country. The restoration of land to rightful owners is one of the biggest responsibilities you gave the democratic government,” Zuma highlighted.
After lengthy negotiations, the South African government paid almost one billion rand ($92.5 million/68 million euros) for the purchase of the land which comprises the internationally renowned Mala Mala Game Reserve.
“I am pleased to note that the current landowners of the Mala Mala land have accepted the validity of the claim and have not declared any dispute about the merits of the claim,” Zuma said.
“However it must be noted that there are some who seek to challenge claims to land despite the validity of these claims,” said Zuma, whose popularity will receive a crucial boost before the elections of 2014.
Negotiations for the settlement of the claim on the land began in May 2008.
“Sections 25 (5) to (7) of our Constitution requires the state to embark on a land reform programme to address the legacy of colonial and apartheid land dispossessions,” Zuma said.
Zuma said the ANC-led government has made a lot of progress, but still faces an uphill task.
“Government, informed by the Constitution of the land and the Freedom Charter on which the Constitution is based, made it its mission since 1994, to restore land that was taken away from the people in the most cruel and unjust manner in many instances,” Zuma said.
Since the ANC came to power in 1994, it had set a target of redistributing 30 per cent of commercial farmland to historically disadvantaged communities by 2014.
With only six per cent of land having been transferred to blacks since 1994, the ANC is sure to miss its target.