No true reconciliation without land restitution, says W Cape church group

Farm workers on the land (PHOTO: Tracy Adams/African News Agency),

For authentic reconciliation to take place in South Africa some land restitution should take place to compensate descendants of people who were historically dispossessed of land, says Concerned Clergy of the Western Cape (CCWC) in a submission to parliament on the proposed amendment of the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

Expressing disappointment at the slow pace of redressing land injustice through current land reform policies, the group of Western Cape church leaders says it conditionally supports the expropriation of land — in some cases without compensation — in pursuit of justice and to the benefit of the majority in the country.

However, they say they will vote against the current passage of the land expropriation bill to allow time for more open discussions to take place and for necessary safeguards to be put in place so that “Expropriation doesn’t become misappropriation”.

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In its submission CCWC says it supports expropriation “only under conditions where it can be guaranteed that all unjust means of expropriating and redistributing land are diligently avoided”.  It says it does not want Zimbabwe-type land redistribution injustice, in which a just cause was perverted to benefit a powerful, elite few, rather than the poor and marginalised.

The church group says it wants wording of the draft bill to allow “land and any other improvements thereon” to be expropriated “for the purposes of land reform” rather than for the expropriation of “property” as it currently stands, thus allowing for the interpretation of any property that is. not limited to land reform.

It says that the “Final Report of The State President’s Advisory Panel” should be the basis for further discussion on the draft bill. It says it finds the report helpful with the exception of its lack of recognition of positive land usage contributions by missionaries who set up hospitals, schools and universities which benefited poor communities.

The CCWC reiterates a view expressed in a previous submission to parliament that the process will require mediation to ensure that the poor and landless benefit from the transfer of land. In the current atmosphere of uncertainty about government corruption, it insists that trustworthy independent members of civil society and the courts be appointed to monitor and mediate disputes. Noting a poll in recent years that showed that the majority of the population trusted the Church, they propose the Church be included in mediation.

Other topics addressed in the group’s submission include incentivising existing (mainly white) farmers to pass on their skills, contacts, access to markets, etc. to eligible new farmers; requestingmore clarity on the “Special circumstances” in subsection 3A of the draft bill; and for employment creation to be considered in the new legislation.

The full CCWC can be downloaded here.

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