The slow land reform in South Africa has caused impatience among the public and it needs to be accelerated if the country is to correct historical injustice, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Saturday.
Ramaphosa made the remarks when handing over title deeds to descendants of the Griqua people in the Ebenhaeser community near Cape Town, who are a subgroup of Southern Africa’s heterogeneous and multiracial people, and have a long history of dispossession.
The handover to original owners “is a historic occasion, because it includes the first ever settled land claim in the Western Cape to descendants of the Griqua people,” said Ramaphosa.
“We share a common goal to improve the lives of all South Africans and uplift their material conditions by giving them access to land,” he added.
Having land returned to its rightful owners is just the first step towards sustainable and enduring land reform, the president said, adding that an inter-ministerial committee has been established to oversee the accelerated reform, with a presidential advisory panel on hand to assist the committee.
Across South Africa, land has been restored to its original owners, be they individuals or communities, according to the president.
Nevertheless, the country’s land reform, characterized by land expropriation without compensation, has drawn ire from opponents, who argue that the process will drive away white farmers, threaten food security and negatively impact the economy.
The government has repeatedly assured that it will pursue the reform without destabilizing the agricultural sector, endangering food security in the country, or undermining economic growth and job creation.
“We are determined that our accelerated land reform program should expand economic opportunities in areas where our people live,” Ramaphosa said Saturday.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) made a promise in 1994 that it would return the land to their rightful owners. About 25 years after the end of apartheid, however, minority whites still own most of the land in South Africa.