Five Quotes From Nelson Mandela On Land

Ahmed Kathrada, Nelson Mandela and Cyril Ramaphosa. (Courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

The dispossession of the black inhabitants of their land was an apartheid era strategy that began with the colonisation of South Africa. Without land, the oppressed majority were stripped of economic power and, ultimately, self-determination – Africa, their home, didn’t belong to them. As part of our series celebrating Nelson Mandela’s Centenary, The Daily Vox looks at five things the former leader of South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC) said about land redistribution.

1. Returning land, which translates to wealth, back to the dispossessed majority, is an important task because it is one way of addressing the injustices of apartheid. This is why the ANC put the return of South Africa’s lands back to its people as one of its clauses in its Freedom Charter. It is an important foundational document for both the party and South Africa’s government. “Because of its content the Freedom Charter has met with international acclaim as an outstanding human rights document,” Mandela said of the document. On land redistribution, the charter states: “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil; the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industries and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people.”

2. At the 15th anniversary summit of the South African Development Community (SADC), on 13 September 1995, Mandela said “We owe it to all the peoples of the sub-continent to ensure that they see in us, not merely good leaders waxing lyrical about development, but as the front commanders in the blast furnaces of labour, productive investments and visible change.”

3. At a ceremony on 23 June 1998, in KwaZulu-Natal in which more than 600 000 hectares was handed back to the rightful black owners, Mandela said to at the ceremony: “Our land reform programme helps redress the injustices of apartheid. It fosters national reconciliation and stability… It also underpins economic growth and improves household welfare and food security.”

4. At the launch of the KwaZulu-Natal land reform pilot programme, on 26 March 1995, Mandela said: “With freedom and democracy last year, came restoration of the right to land. And with it, the opportunity to address the effects of centuries of dispossession and denial.” He added: “It is therefore a matter of great pride for me, to be here to launch this project. At last we can, as a people, look our ancestors in the face and say: Your sacrifices were not in vain. The time has come to correct the wrongs that colonial invasion brought on our communities.

In addressing land hunger, the Government of National Unity is not engaged in a simplistic, punitive and unproductive exercise. We seek a solution that is generally acceptable to all, an approach that eliminates the suspicion, mistrust, and anger that have characterised land disputes over the years.

Furthermore, our land redistribution policy insists on the effective and productive use of land as a resource in a sustainable way.”

5. In his speech at the 50th anniversary of India’s independence in 1997, Mandela said of India’s transformation and land reformation after colonialism: “India’s pioneering experiences with land reform, nation-building and constitution-making have provided invaluable lessons. From India too we have learnt of the enormity of the challenge of eradicating poverty. As we enter the new millennium we are transforming our solidarity in struggle into a partnership to ensure that the emerging world order reduces the huge disparities between the haves and the have-nots.”

The EFF’s land expropriation without compensation wants to remove the “buying back” clause that currently exists in the Restitution of Land Rights Act enacted in 1994 during Mandela’s presidency.

Featured image courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation