COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota is calling for a more sensible approach towards South Africa’s land issue amid calls from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to take land from white people without compensation, endorsed by president Jacob Zuma.
Speaking to Radio 702 this week, Lekota said that the claim that white people ‘stole the land’ from black people in South Africa is not correct, and that land ownership in the country is determined through decades of buying, selling and negotiation.
According to Lekota, land ownership was not even a concept until white colonists arrived in the Cape and Natal, when they introduced title deeds. This formalised land ownership, and has ultimately made it possible for anyone to acquire land today.
Before title deeds, land was simply occupied, Lekota said, and the black majority who now claim the land as theirs were not even the original occupiers, having come from the “great lakes” to the north.
“We, the so-called Bantu speaking South Africans, came from the North, from the Great Lakes, we over ran territory here which was occupied by the Khoi and the San. There was no title, we just occupied that land,” he said.
“We were not even the original residents here. The people we call Baroa, the People of the South – Ba boroa, the People of the South, it’s the Khoi, the people we found here.”
Lekota said that the Khoi people sold the land or negotiated with Cape settlers to work out ownership.
The COPE leader acknowledged that land was forcibly taken from black people in South Africa through the 1913 Land Act – and these cases needed to be dealt with as per the Constitution – but this could not be used as the basis from taking all land from white people in the country.
“Even when the land was taken under the 1913 Land Act, nobody could just say ‘I’m white I must get a piece of land’, they had to buy it,” Lekota said.
Lekota said that title deeds make it easier to identify who owns which piece of land, adding that if land is simply taken, there is no system in place to determine who should get it.
“If you took any land in this country, take any land from the white people, which black families will you give that land to? And which will not get? Because you won’t be able to give each and every one of the families. You must have criteria,” he said.
The COPE leader said that black people should rid themselves of the view that all white people walking around own land – and those that do, bought it. The government can take the land back from them – but only if it shows a title deed saying “this is my land”.
You can listen to the full interview below.
Lekota’s comments come as president Jacob Zuma finds more support among his loyalists, echoing calls for the South African Constitution to be changed to allow for land redistribution without compensation.
The ANC’s official policy on land reform is aligned with the Constitution, which currently allows for the state to expropriate land from anyone, providing “just and equitable” compensation.
However, the ANC-led government has amassed a significant backlog in the process, and now wants to speed things up, pressured by a swell of support for the Economic Freedom Fighters, who have championed that particular avenue of land reform.
The EFF has found itself on the wrong side of the law with physical land occupations in the country, while party leader Julius Malema has sparked outrage on more than one occasion, calling for land grabs and threatening white people in the country.