SOUTH Africa’s Parliament vowed on Monday to do all in its power to stem illegal farm invasions as the country is pursuing a controversial land reform.
‘We must do all in our power to stem illegal farm invasions and ensure that such acts of criminality do not derail the legitimate process of restitution, nor cause hardship and suffering to the rightful beneficiaries of such claims,’ said Nkosi Mandela, chairperson of Parliament’s Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Committee.
He was responding to Saturday’s attack and invasion of a 7,500-hectare farm in KwaZulu-Natal Province, during which ‘violent thugs’ set the farm alight and allegedly threw the farm manager into fire. The manager was hospitalised with burns.
The incident has caused concerns about the legality of the ongoing land reform at a time when Parliament is in the process of amending the Constitution to pave the way for land expropriation without compensation.
In an apparent bid to alleviate such concerns, Mandela said there are sufficient provisions in the land reform process to deal with disputes and counter claims which he said still have full recourse to procedural justice and other legal provisions.
‘We cannot condone acts of criminality as these do not advance the process of land reform or restitution. Such vile acts are not only uncalled for, but also further diminish the integrity of claims or counter claims,’ said Mandela.
He appealed for calm and called for a criminal investigation into the recent incident so that the culprits may face the full might of the law.
‘Whilst we understand that the land restitution process is highly emotive and tied to the trauma, pain and suffering arising from historic dispossession, we can never allow violence to define a process that is intended to be restorative, healing and advancing reconciliation and social cohesion,’ he said.
Mandela urged all individuals and communities involved in land claims and restitution processes not to take the law into their own hands, regardless of the circumstances.
He also cautioned against political parties making cheap mileage out of a very volatile situation.
‘We urge for maturity as irresponsible statements and grand standing will only ferment a cycle of acrimony, criminality and violence,’ Mandela stressed.
The latest development came as the government was preparing to release a report which will inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme.
The land issue has been a focus of debate in South Africa since 2018 when the ruling African National Congress (ANC) stepped up efforts to expropriate land without compensation.
Despite the government’s efforts, landless blacks complain that the country has not made sufficient progress in addressing the land issue, because most of the country’s land still remains in the hands of the few.