South Africa has not fully reversed the damage done by the Natives Land Act, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
“A great wrong was done, and now it is up to us to follow-up by doing a great right,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery at a commemoration of the centenary of the 1913 Land Act.
“We are now in charge of our own destiny. We have achieved a successful transition to democracy, but we have not yet fully reversed the dreadful pattern of poverty and landlessness — the havoc created by the Natives Land Act,” said Zuma.
“Correcting the consequences of this act is a critical cog in the wheel of state. It is a crucial component in the National Development Plan.”
The act dispossessed land from black and “native” South Africans.
Zuma said it marked the beginning of the socio-economic challenges the country now faced.
“The act was enforced for 78 years until it was repealed in 1991, and during these many years it did enormous damage, so much so that despite 22 intervening years, the legacy of the act stubbornly persists,” he said.
“We take our hats off to the black people of this country and to the Khoi and the San people, for not allowing the pain of the past to stand in the way of building the present and the future.
“The pain of being driven off one’s land is worse than anything one can imagine.”
Zuma said the government admitted that the land redistribution progress had been slow, and that the 2014 redistribution target would not be met.
Until now, only 6.7 million hectares of land had been transferred through redistribution and restitution.
“We call on all South Africans to commemorate this landmark, with a view to correcting the wrongs of the past and to reinforce reconciliation,” Zuma said.
“We urge the public to participate in the process of improving land redistribution and reform to reverse the impact of the 1913 act.” – Sapa