It's time we resolved the land issue

A file image of a field of maize meal.
A file image of a field of maize meal.
Image: Thinkstock

Land ownership, or lack thereof, has always been at the heart of the South African conflict.

Hence it is no surprise that, 24 years after the end of formal apartheid, attempts to ensure just distribution of the land - especially among the previously dispossessed and oppressed - are causing much tension and anxiety.

The decision by the ANC, at its national executive committee lekgotla earlier this week, to officially call for the amendment of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation has sparked a renewed and heated debate.

Is the party undermining the ongoing parliamentary process by publicly stating it wants the Constitution amended while the legislature is still holding hearings on the very issue?

Perhaps the ANC could have handled the matter better. There was absolutely no reason for President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the party's leader, to issue a late night statement on the issue when the ANC was to hold its press briefing the next day.

However, we accept that it's the party's right to make up its mind on the matter so that when the hearings are concluded, there would be clarity on where those who would be voting on the issue stand.

For far too long there has been uncertainty as to how the South African majority's long-standing demand for land, as encompassed in the decades' old slogan - Mayibuye iAfrika - was to be met.

The pace of transformation when it comes to land ownership, as is the case with many other aspects of the South African life, has been frustratingly slow. Yes, some of the delay has been as a result of government's ineptitude. But we can no longer deny that there has also been resistance from current land owners, especially of commercial farms, to work with the state in transferring some of the land into black hands. This has resulted in the kind of anger we witness at the hearings, especially in rural communities.

It is therefore incumbent upon our lawmakers to ensure that the issue is concluded as soon as possible in terms of legislation and that the possible constitutional changes are made. Of utmost importance is that the process must be as inclusive as possible so that the vast majority can collectively own the final decision.

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