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Sun Jul 31 11:44:42 CAT 2016

Don't invite lawsuits, Mr President, deal with land hunger

The Times Editorial | 04 March, 2016 00:20

President Jacob Zuma spoke frankly yesterday about the land question and the difficulties his administration has had in fast-tracking restitution.

It is, as he said, "a life and death question". Failure to deal with land hunger will lead to ever-worsening tensions.

We should come up with mechanisms that will remove a real threat of land invasions as seen in other parts of our region, such as Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in parliament, Zuma said black South Africans who had been dispossessed of their land should retain a "serious law firm" to represent them all.

He condemned the present land restitution legislation as inequitable.

"The law we have today to claim is lopsided against black people."

His statements showed us that we have a president frustrated by policies drafted by his own administration and signed into law by him.

We do not know why the president should call for litigation when he has all the instruments of government at his disposal to deal with the land question.

It is 103 years since the Native Land Act was passed and the descendants of those who were dispossessed are running out of patience.

Although the government has taken a pragmatic approach in dealing with land claims, Zuma cannot blame policy directives when they emanate from his administration.

Inequality and unemployment can be directly linked to land dispossession and for the government to help reverse inequities of the past it needs to deal with land restitution.

We fully agree with Zuma that the land taken after 1913 is less significant than the land taken in the 1800s and 1700s, particularly the 1800s.

But this should not be an excuse for Zuma and his administration to abdicate their work on achieving equity in respect of the post-1913 appropriations.

Since, Mr President, you have identified the problem, we expect you to tackle land restitution with renewed urgency.

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