Date: 30 Nov 95 12:10:21 PST
From: Chris.Lowe@directory.Reed.EDU (Chris Lowe)
Subject: Land & class in SA
Political battles are looming over land reform in South Africa
By Eddie Koch, in African Agenda
30 November 1995
Johannesburg: Land reform in South Africa faces fire on
several fronts. Land Affairs Minister Derek Hanekom has
been pressing ahead with a comprehensive programme to
implement the new government's promise that 30% of all
arable land will be redistributed over the next five years
and that the rural poor will be able to live on land without
fear of arbitrary eviction.
His ministry has pushed through a series of laws and bills
to achieve this. But his work teams ran into political
tremors in late June.
The first shudders came when Defence Minister Joe Modise
confirmed reports that his force, the state department that
has control over the largest tracts of land in the country,
was holding up efforts to redistribute unused or under-utilised
The communities at Lohatla in the Northern Cape, now an SADF
(South African Defence Force) battle school, have lodged
formal claims for their titles to be restored. A number of
high-level meetings were called to stave off a cabinet rift.
The result is that Modise was forced to back down and President
Nelson Mandela has agreed to intervene in the spat.
Comprehensive measures were put in place early this year so
that communities displaced under apartheid could reclaim
title to their land. A pilot land reform programme aimed at
redistributing land to poor constituencies is up and running
in all nine provinces.
A draft law that offers protection to more than 250,000
tenants from arbitrary eviction and gives them the right to
own land on white farms was published recently. And the
cabinet accepted a trilogy of bills that would provide secu
rity to millions on land in the former homelands.
Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi described the
three bills as another attempt by central government to
undermine the powers of traditional chiefs in KwaZulu-Natal.
The main law in the trilogy, the Interim Protection of
Informal Land Rights Bill, provides for a temporary freeze
on tenure patterns in the former homelands where formal
land-holding records are in a state of chaos and do not
reflect actual residential patterns. It gives land
officials a breathing period, until the end of 1996, to
come up with a comprehensive programme for solving the
administrative nightmare in the old homelands. Buthelezi
railed against the measures at an Inkatha Freedom Party
(IFP) rally in KwaZulu-Natal on the grounds that it formed
part of a concerted strategy - along with the plan for
central government to pay traditional leaders' salaries and
thus free them from local political pressures - to undermine
the powers of chiefs to administer land in tribal areas.
But by all accounts, the minister remained mum when the
Cabinet approved the bill. There is, however, little doubt
there will be more fire in the politically volatile province
as the IFP steps up its attack on Mandela's plan for
national government to pick up the chiefs' wage bill.
The most unstable terrain exists, however, in parts of
KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Transvaal where tenants and
farmers have been waging a low-intensity class struggle over
rights to land. In both regions, white farmers, fearful of
claims from people who have lived on the land for decades,
have evicted scores of black families, impounding their
cattle and burning some of their homesteads.
Workers and farm tenants responded first by threatening an
armed invasion of white-owned land and then by mounting a
massive labour strike this year. At different stages of
these conflicts, cattle were attacked, fences ripped down,
and there have been cases of farmers being assassinated.
The Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Bill was set up to give
tenants either secure title or the right to buy their own
land from farmers. But it also lays down procedures for
landowners to evict tenants who may have broken a contract
with a farmer. The measure won some support from
agricultural unions because it promised some stability.
But the Agricultural Employers Organisation (AEO), which
claims to represent 7,000 farmers, along with three major
agricultural unions called an early July summit to mobilise
resistance against the bill.
Tenants also issued a statement declaring they were not
prepared to pay for land obtained from white farmers as
provided for in the bill.
The land issue has divided people along a fault line that,
three centuries after the first permanent settlement by
white invaders, still threatens to rock the country. - Third
World Network Features
About the writer: Eddie Koch is a contributor to African
Agenda, where this article first appeared.
African Agenda is published monthly for the Third World
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