Land activists want speedy land reform, restitution and an end to evictions

Land activists from around the country came to Cape Town to discuss land expropriation and restitution. They took their demands to Parliament. Photo by Mfundo Mhlanganiso

A group of about 100 land activists marched to Parliament to demand speedy expropriation of land without compensation.

Nothintsile Xalipi is one of the land protesters who demonstrated outside Parliament on Tuesday calling for the speeding up of ‘real’ land reform and restitution and a stop to evictions. The 78-year-old mother of five from a village in Cala,  said that she is a subsistence farmer with a small garden, 4 cows, 2 pigs and chickens. “I’m here because we want our land back. I want to leave my children with something,” said Xalipi, who is also a member of Siyazakha Land and Development Forum.

Land activists – representing farmworkers and farm-dwellers, labour tenants, rural women, subsistence farmers, communities that are affected by mining and housing activists from urban areas, from different parts of the country – had gathered in Cape Town to talk about land expropriation. Among the organisations present were Reclaim the City in Cape Town, the national Rural Women’s Movement, the Land Access Movement of South Africa (Lamosa), and the Alliance for Rural Democracy.

Handing the memorandum to Victor Ngaleka from the Office of the Speaker, David Ramohanoe of Lamosa said that land must be expropriated now. “The government has already got the power to expropriate land and they must do so now for the benefit of the group of people that are represented at the march.

“It’s been 24 years now we have been dealing with the issue of land. The restitution process is slow, so we are saying that the government we have put into power must start serving us. We are sick and tired of the government not wanting to do what they are supposed to do,” stated Ramohanoe.

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Farm workers and farm dwellers are calling for a moratorium on farm evictions. They also want an end to all black economic empowerment (BEE) fronting through fake equity share schemes. “The farmworkers do not get anything out of the equity share schemes and that means that the workers are just being used for fronting,” said Leeroy Joseph, a farmworker from Porterville, a town on the west coast.

Meanwhile, Sizani Ngubane from the Rural Women’s Movement told Elitsha that they want the Ingonyama Trust Act to be scrapped. “As the community we were not part of the deal; it was a deal between the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party,” said the 73-year-old. According to her, people get called to the chiefs’ place and they have been forced to convert their PTO (permission to occupy) into leases. People are not told that their leases increase by 10% every year. “People are being made to pay for their ancestral land in the name of having leases,” said Ngubane.

Reclaim the City said that they have identified urban land in the City of Cape Town that can be used for social housing. “There is a lot of government-owned land that is used for car parking that can be used for social housing. There is a public works property on 104 Darling Street that the government wants to destroy and evict the tenants without providing alternative accommodation. We are saying that they must renovate the building and make it available as part of social housing,” said Bevil Lucas from the housing advocacy group.

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Lucas told Elitsha that there is also a piece of land in Vredehoek that is linked to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) that can be used to build social housing. “It’s not right that poor people are made to live on the outskirts of the City meanwhile they are the ones who built this City,” lamented Lucas who is part of the group that is occupying Helen Bowden Hospital at the Waterfront,renaming it Ahmed Kathrada House.

The groups have given Parliament seven days to respond to their demands. Xalipi will be back home in Cala by then with her three grandchildren. She claims that the land reform beneficiaries in Cala have had a hard time because the white farmers are making it difficult for them. “They cut electricity, open the dams and cut down fences to make it difficult for the land reform beneficiaries to farm,” said Xalipi.

“When we do get land we want the government to support us by giving us tractors and make sure that we have access to fertilisers and the market,” concluded Xalipi.



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