Speech by Hon Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela during the debate on the Report of Adhoc Committee to Exercise Co-Ordinated Oversight on the legacy of the Native Land Act of 1913

29 October 2013

Honourable Speaker
His Excellency the President
And Deputy President
Honourable Ministers
And Deputy Ministers
Honourable members
And the audience in the gallery.

Perhaps today I should begin with a quote from Jomo Kenyatta: “When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible". I pray today that it were that simple. That we could simply close our eyes, render a prayer and when we open our eyes, we would have the land of our forefathers back and they can have their bible back. But the situation we find ourselves in is more complicated than that.

It is complicated by submissions we`ve had to endure as the Ad Hoc Committee on the Legacy of the Native Land Act of 1913 from the Afrikaaner Bond who claim that "when they arrived in the 1600`s there were no Black People here". There is absolutely no truth in their submission as we all know that Africans have been in this part of the country far earlier than the arrival of the Europeans. The loss of land rights by black people in rural areas in South Africa started in the 17th century and ran up to the 19th century through a process of colonisation and apartheid. The accession made by the Afrikaaner Bond is that the vast amount of land they have today was not occupied. The truth of the matter is that there were many wars of land dispossession which resulted in millions of Black South African being butchered. For example the war in Grahamstown in 1818 led by the mass murdered Col. John Graham forced the Xhosas off their land and it was amongst the colonisers.

But as usual the explanation to the wars of dispossession as attested by the Afrikaaner Bond was Mfecane, which has been a universally accepted idea that the series of upheavals which took place in the 1820s to 1830s had been caused primarily by the explosive expansion of the Zulu Kingdom under Shaka. Prof. Julian Cobbing in his article "The Mfecane as Alibi" dismissed this notion saying "dispossession was a result of the expansion of the European colonial settlement". More particularly, "they had been caused by the slave-raiding and slave-trading from the Cape colony in the south and from the Portuguese trading outpost at Delgoa Bay in the east". Dispossession of land was thus cruel and brutal as it forced many Africans off their land such as the Khoi, Griquas, Xhosas, Thembus, Mpondos the list is endless.

One of the most brutal measures was the Natives Land Act of 1913 (Act No. 27 of 1913) promulgated on 19 June 1913. The most important provision of the Act was it restricted black people from buying, leasing and selling land, except in the scheduled areas which were referred to as ‘reserves’. As a result of the 1913 Native Land Act and subsequent laws, millions of people were uprooted from their ancestral lands, often with deliberate cruelty and without compensation.

Land questions have played a key role in the history of South Africa, and their successful resolution is critically important for stability, democracy and development. The Afrikaaner Bond submitted that the "Application of Race and Ethnics in Land allocations is outdated". As long as Whites who form the minority in South Africa own the majority of the land, the ANC will never change it`s policy on land reform which consist of two elements:

  1. Restitution for those who were dispossessed through forced removals.
  2. Redistribution of land to deal with the land hunger and the unequal distribution of land.

Therefore, Honourable Speaker, the ANC supports this report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Legacy of the Native Land Act of 1913.

Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela
MP National Assembly.