Title: SA: D Peters: Land hand-over celebration for the Koegas Community
The Programme director
The MEC for Agriculture and Land Reform, Ms Tina Joemat-Petterson
The Provincial Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Reform, Mr Dawid Rooi
The Northern Cape Provincial Tourism and Nature Conversation, Mr Pieter Saaiman
The President of AGRI Northern Cape, Mr Wessel Van der Merwe
The NAFU Northern Cape, Mr Messelaar
The Department of land Affairs Director General, Mr Thozi Gwanya
The Acting Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Mr Blessing Mphela
The Free State and Northern Cape Regional Land Claims Commissioner, Mr Sidney Hlongwane
All the Commissioners present here today
All District and Local Mayors present
Senior government officials from all three spheres of government present here.
Members of the media
All protocol observed
Programme director. In South African history, June is regarded as the most important month as it is characterised by significant political and legislative changes that have left the indelible mark in the lives of the people of South Africa. Three days ago we celebrated June 16 wherein 32 years ago South Africa and the whole world witnessed the brutal killings of the Soweto young people who were protesting against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools. The Apartheid regime used one of our African Languages, the Afrikaans as the important tool to oppress African blacks and in pursuit of their Afrikaner Nationalism for the realisation of white supremacy in South Africa.
As part of this democratic government, we are saying we want to acknowledge and recognise the contribution made by our young people of the class of 1976 and say to them "South Africa is free and flourishing today because of your struggles and blood of those young comrades that were brutally butchered by the apartheid government all over the country" In trying to honour your contribution, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs has launched a youth development programme called Youth in Agriculture and Rural Development (YARD). Its commitment is to empower and promote the development of youth in Agriculture and land Affairs, as the main engine of economic growth in rural communities through an efficient and sustainable service which will enhance the environment and improve the quality of life of rural families.
It was again on this day the 19 June 1913, 95 years ago when the Union of South Africa passed an infamous Native Land Act No. 27 of 1913 which gave legislative effect to a process of land seizure by the white settlers that has been going on since Jan van Riebeeck set foot on the shores of the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. It was again through this and other racially discriminatory laws that saw our people including the people of Koegas being forcefully uprooted from their land and their dignity destroyed.
The Native Land Act brought about untold sufferings to the generations of black people in many ways including migrant labour system characterised by hostel/compound settlements and rural vulnerable poor female headed households. Under this Act, Black Africans were no longer be able to own, even rent land outside of designated reserves which amounted to approximately 7% of unprofitable South Africa's land which later increased to 13% with vast tracts of land placed under the control of Bantustans.
The first Secretary-General of the ANC Sol Plaatjie wrote an informative book on the impact of the 1913 Land Act on the rural African masses, graphically describing the resultant further impoverishment and subjugation of the African people. The consequences were extremely pernicious, inhumane and had long-term negative effects on the black people, whose legacy is central to our transformation agenda today. Amongst other things dispossessions led to widespread homelessness, absence of security of tenure, overcrowding, unstable families, rural-urban migration, the degradation of the soil and serious limitations on the possibility of Africans to pursue meaningful agricultural and agro-industrial activities.
However, the masses of our people did not easily submit to the ruthless practices. Under the leadership of their liberation movement, the ANC, they mounted many struggles to resist forced removals and impositions of the various laws that sought to make blacks foreigners in their own country. In the process many among the oppressed majority joined the ranks of the national liberation movement to fight and individual communities also fought courageous struggles to retain their lands including the people of Koegas here in the Northern Cape.
Because of these above-mentioned struggles and the recognizable strides made by our democratic government, The Department of Land Affairs has declared June as the "Land Month" which is dedicated to the achievements that we have made as the democratic government in trying to reverse the imbalances of the past. It is also dedicated to achievements in terms of measures that we have taken to ameliorate the pain and despair occasioned by the years of ruthless removals.
Hence I and the Regional Land Claims Commissioner for Free State and Northern Cape Mr Sidney Hlongwane are handing-over 23 000 hectares of the Koegas farms known as Westerberg, Koegasputs, Kwakwas, Grasgat, Hounslow, Pypwater and Koegas to you the community of Koegas. This is indeed a huge meaningful contribution by restitution as part of South African Land Reform programme in trying to achieve the 2014 goal of transferring 30% of agricultural and profitable land to the previously disadvantaged, Blacks in particular.
I am certain that you as the community of Koegas will allow me to briefly narrate your history of dispossession as part of the broader programme of the apartheid regime and its parastatals. This place was said to be the centre of Cape Blue Mines Company in the late 1800s. The first major blow for the people of Koegas was the discovery of asbestos in their area in 1893 which continued until 1980s. Before asbestos was mined in this area, it used to be occupied by people from different cultures and ethnicities. They had built themselves huts that were made of sacks and reeds which were later built of corrugated iron and bricks. Your ancestors or some of you still alive used this land for crops and grazing and we know as government that there are graves for your relatives in this land. That is the reason why we are saying we are giving back to you your ancestral land.
When the Land Act was passed, the then Hay District was included in the scheduled areas. As a result it was reserved for Whites occupation only and blacks in the area had to relocate to areas that were listed in schedule for Black occupation. However, there was a portion of land that was excised from the area and a new area was included in the schedule by Proclamation 66 of 1965. This resulted in the community being divided into racial locations when at the beginning one could build his/her dwelling where it could fit the family.
The removals here at Koegas were multiple removals as people built every where they felt it was safe for them. When asbestos was discovered their freedom to choose where their homes could be built was taken away from them. When an area within the mines was identified for mining purposes all the people living in it were removed and relocated to an alternative place for them to reside in order for them not to interfere with the mining operations.
We are aware as government that as you were caged in settlements, you were also forced to work in the mine and if you refused to work on the mine you would be removed by the Prieska Police. Again those of you who contracted asbestosis disease during the mining, you were equally removed from the mine by Prieska Police to die without any compensation to the members of the family which was very irresponsible of the apartheid regime and the Cape PLC.
In essence it was not only one piece of legislation used to remove people from Koegas but a combination of Acts like the Development and Land Act 18 of 1936, read together with the Black Urban Areas Act 25 of 1945, Black Labour Regulations Act 15 of 1911 and the Group Areas Act 41 of 1950. In terms of the rights lost, the Koegas people had beneficial occupation rights as they stayed on the land for more than ten years and rights to grazing and cultivation as they were forced to sell their livestock for nothing demeaning their livelihood.
The Regional Land Claims Commission for Free State and Northern Cape under the leadership of Commissioner Sidney Hlongwane has successfully negotiated the 23 000 hectares land restoration settlement package of R32 878 865.00 for almost 667 households with approximately 3 335 beneficiaries. I am also aware that we have committed ourselves to verify other people that were said to be deposited to as far as Namibia during the early land dispossessions.
After the successful negotiation of the land restoration settlement package with the current farm owners, the commission will provide necessary assistance to the beneficiaries through the Settlement Implementation Support Strategy developed by the Department of Land Affairs in trying to capacitate the beneficiaries with skills and funding for the projects sustainability. The community will also be advised to engage institutions like the National Development Agency (NDA) which is concentrating on youth training and capacity building, HIV and Aids, tourism development and agricultural development. The regional land claims commission is currently and optimistically negotiating the settlement of about 5299.0929 hectares as the last phase of the Koegas settlement package. The office would also like to commend the farm owners concerned for their positive and co-operative attitude towards the transformation of our society.
Land is one of the primary resources since our lives are dependent on it for survival. In order to achieve the above-mentioned deliverables, the Restitution Act No. 22 of 1994 as Amended was promulgated and gave birth to the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights in South Africa. The vision of this Act is to have those persons or communities dispossessed of their property after 19 June 1913, as a result of past racial discriminatory laws and practices be restored to such property or receive just and equitable redress. Today, the community of Koegas is reaping the fruits of political intervention made through the operations of the Free State and Northern Cape Regional Land Claims Commission under the leadership of Commissioner Sidney Hlongwane as they undertook this mammoth task of researching, validate, verify, negotiate and settle the claim of Koegas.
The State President Mr Thabo Mbeki once said in June 2003, "Ninety years after the passage of the 1913 Land Act, we are on the way towards meeting the demand contained in the Freedom Charter, that the land shall belong to those who work it. The people working at Agriculture and Land Affairs are our leading troops in the struggle to use land to fight unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment and redress past wrongs. At the same time we all have a duty to lend a hand and enter into a people's contract for a better tomorrow. We should not, and will not waver in our resolve to address the land question."
Programme director, let me remind you here of the challenges that our government is mindful of and currently facing that needs all our efforts in order to triumph. We are faced with problem of food security and rapidly rising food prices. This has also been raised sharply in the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development where the focus was to review progress made on the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Action. Hence the United Nations (UN) called for the dramatically increased Overseas Development Assistance and thus contributing to the realisation of the NEPAD agenda, which includes the development of the infrastructure that will facilitate regional trade and development.
To ascertain the above-mentioned undertaking, in his words, the Secretary-General of the UN Mr Ban Ki Moon said, "The first green revolution may have skipped most of the African countries as it benefited the developed countries; we must ensure that the second green revolution is specifically for Africa."
Land and Agrarian Reform Project (LARP) aimed at accelerating and aligning land and Agrarian in South Africa was announced by the State President as project number seven amongst the 24 Government Apex of Priorities. LARP will focus primarily on redistributing five million hectares of white-owned agricultural land to 10 000 new agricultural producers, increase Black entrepreneurs in the agribusiness industry to 10%, provide universal access to agricultural support services to the target groups, increase agricultural production and trade by 10 to 15% for the target groups under ILIMA-LETSEMA campaign.
This will see government intensifying programmes for the production of wheat, maize, soya and milk as they form the core business for our survival as human beings. The government will also embark on a programme to mobilise the private sector to ensure that we look into mechanisms of donating food and addressing costs of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers which impacts heavily on the subsistence and emerging farmers. What is of most important for us as the community is to engage government officials on the role that we can play in the realisation of ILIMA-LETSEMA Campaign and secondly to save where it is possible.
Without any further ado let me take this opportunity and thank everyone that has played a major role in ensuring that were are here today. We salute you for your valuable contributions. Project officer of the Koegas claim and managers we say we take note of good work you are doing. I must also thank the whole community of Koegas for their cooperation throughout the tiring restitution processes leading to the settlement of the claim and also for you perseverance and patience towards the processes.
In conclusion, programme director I want to pass this message to all South Africans from the South African government and the ruling party, the ANC that South Africa is situated on the southern hemisphere of Africa meaning that we are part of Africa and we are Africans. A person from Angola, Somali, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe are the same including State President Thabo Mbeki, ANC President Jacob Zuma, I and you. So let us treat them with dignity you will expect from any other human being in your walks of life.
"Matla a rona"
"Africa for all"
"South Africa for all"
"Forward to ILIMA-LETSEMA campaign forward!"
Issued by: Office of the Premier, Northern Cape Provincial Government
19 June 2008