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Address by Deputy President David Mabuza at the Communal Land Administration and Tenure Summit, Birchwood Hotel, Kempton Park, Gauteng Province

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Programme Director, Minister Thoko Didiza,
King and Queens,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
The Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Nkosikazi Mhlauli: Ah! NoSandi,
The Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders Kgosi Seatlholo: Rapulana!,
Members of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders;,
MECs of COGTA and Agriculture,
Chairpersons of Provincial Houses of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders,
President of CONTRALESA and CONTRALESA Executive,
Mayors from all Districts and Metros,
Leadership of the South African Local Government Association,
Representatives of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform,
Representatives of the academia, non-governmental organisations, legal experts, business and broader civil society,
Representatives of traditional and Khoi-San communities,
Directors-General and Senior Officials of Government,
Members of the media,
All delegates.

Programme Director,

Our gathering here today and tomorrow, marks an important milestone in our efforts of resolving the National Question and the quest to affirm our heritage founded on right to land as an important pillar for the realisation of development. 

Land, heritage and national identity are inseparable, as they define how we perceive ourselves as a sovereign nation with uncontested right self-determination. 

The national land spaces of our birth define ecosystems of life, our collective consciousness, nationhood and the possibilities of future progress that any nation including ours, desires for its people.

The nation lives because it has land! 

The native people of the land live, because they define themselves in relation to the land they inhabit for their development and progress. 

Even the powerless and the poor are born into land that must define their identities and provide sustenance to them and generations to come. 

It goes without saying that the lives of communities are intertwined with land and its natural endowments that must benefit them. Individually and collectively, as a community, people must have access to land for their development and progress.

As we gather today in this Summit, our reflections must not escape the inevitable constitutional injunctions that land administration and tenure systems that we opt for, must primarily put the interests of the people and communities first. 

In traditional communities, ownership of and access to land for productive use, will forever remain critical levers for addressing the legacies of underdevelopment and social deprivation.

We have no doubt that traditional leaders gathered here today, understand and appreciate the value of land in helping to advance the empowerment of people in communal areas. For people in communal areas, have the same right to development as any other South African elsewhere in urban setting. 

Therefore, any form of land deprivation strips ordinary people of their national identity, heritage and ability to develop and progress as a people. 

As a nation, our struggle for liberation was principally centred around the injustices of land dispossession and deprivation, and the indignity of forced removals of people from the land of their birth.

In the broader struggles for liberation and democratisation, traditional leaders played a critical role in the fight against land dispossessions by the colonial and apartheid system. 

Any narration of the history of land dispossession wars in South Africa would be incomplete if it does not include the heroic struggles led by our traditional and Khoi-San leaders.

As we gather here many years later, the land question remains firmly on the agenda of government’s transformation programme, and this has continued to feature strongly in our engagements with the institution of traditional and Khoi-San leadership.

As a nation, we are now at the point of no return. We have geared ourselves to confront the land question head-on, by utilising all constitutionally compliant instruments and mechanisms of transformation. 

Fellow compatriots,

We are at the cross-roads! One possibly leading to anarchy and destruction, and the other, leading to carefully guided land reform programme that ensures strategic land acquisition, land redistribution, and restitution of land to its rightful owners and those who need it for development. 

Whilst we accept that land reform is a complex and emotive matter, as a responsible government, we affirm our determination to choose this as the path. 

More importantly, land tenure reform remains a critical component of our land reform programme.

Not only is accelerated land reform a necessary condition for restorative justice, but it is a pre-condition for forging unity and social cohesion across the nation. Government is committed to ensuring that our land reform programme delivers on the aspirations of ordinary people. 

While the scope of our Summit has been framed to cover land administration and tenure in communal areas, as government, we are aware of the urgent need to effect land transformation that goes beyond the 13 percent of communal land under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders. 

We will proceed with available policy and legislative instruments that will assist in the acquisition of more land for redistribution and expansion of communal land, especially in areas where land has been expropriated in the public interest.  

We will ensure that land issues not covered in the deliberations of this narrowly focused Summit are firmly placed on the agenda of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team that is seized with addressing all issues raised by traditional and Khoi-San leaders. 

Programme Director, 

We are encouraged that on the occasion of the Indigenous and Traditional Indaba in 2017, traditional leaders reaffirmed their commitment to among others, the implementation of land tenure reforms and land redistribution within a developmental approach. 

The Indaba also agreed that a Summit would be convened to interrogate the transfer of land and its transformation. 

Within the spirit of that resolve, this Summit will focus on how we collectively shape the nature of land administration and tenure in communal areas, including governance, institutional coordination mechanisms, and the role of traditional leadership. 

The proposals discussed and agreed in this Summit will be refined into clear policy instruments to advance land administration and tenure reforms in our country.

As we undertake this work, we must re-think the developmental dichotomy that perceives and circumscribes communal land for only human settlements and labour reserves while urban areas and small towns are seen as sites of industrial development and job creation. 

Instead, communal land administration and tenure must be geared to position strategic communal land for targeted industrial development in key sectors of comparative advantage. 

Within the framework of the District Development Model, infrastructure to support key sector value chains must be developed to concentrate value creation and employment opportunities in close proximity to where people live. 

Given the predictability of communal land administration and tenure, there is no doubt that traditional communities could develop into thriving sites of targeted industrial development and beneficiation of available natural endowments. 

With proper governance systems and processes, the people in communal areas stand to benefit and theirs lives improved for the better, through the productive utilisation of their land.

Essentially, proper and effective development and utilisation of communal land must be guided by long-term spatial development perspectives, depending on comparative advantages of each area. 

Economic development corridors and designated human settlement areas must be based on spatial development priorities that contribute to the long-term development trajectory of a given District or local municipality. 

Spatial and land use planning, also guides infrastructure investment plans to support economic mobility and access to basic services and social amenities.

The current approach in the development and growth of settlements in communal land is untenable and unsustainable. 

The ad hoc allocation of land and development without services, makes the provision of basic services difficult, and in some instances, do not factor-in the challenges that may be posed by global warming and climate change resulting to natural disasters. 

This problem could be easily resolved through closer collaboration between municipalities and traditional leaders. 

As we have learned from the KZN Floods Disaster, the allocation of settlement sites in inappropriate locations not guided by spatial planning, could pose serious flood risks given that some of the allocated sites are located along river banks. 

The impact of climate change and the unpredictable intensity of floods, will require a dedicated focus on spatial planning to anticipate and avert future disasters. 

Traditional leaders can make a significant contribution towards promoting responsible land use planning and development, drawing from indigenous knowledge systems that have, from time immemorial, guided development of traditional communities.

We are aware that traditional leaders have raised their concerns about the implementation of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA). 

Traditional leaders felt that they were not consulted for input, yet spatial planning happens in their areas of jurisdiction. There are best practices which they would like government to consider, so that they have an effective role to play in the development of their areas. 

This Summit has to find a workable solution and approach to the institutionalisation and implementation of SPLUMA, so that we ensure traditional leaders play an effective role in spatial development planning affecting communal land.

Options for Communal Land Administration and Tenure

Programme Director,

Like we have mentioned earlier, this Summit will have a singular focus on tackling complex issues of communal land administration and tenure. As government, we have taken a position that the State divest itself of ownership of this land and transfer it to its rightful owners.  

Questions that the Summit must deliberate extensively on, is how the land should be administered? And what different forms of tenure will be appropriate and consistent with the customary norms and practices of these different communities?

Our approach as government has been that some preparatory work needed to be done before this Summit could be convened. That is why in the build-up to this Summit, we had study tours and research being conducted to benchmark our approach with other countries.

On the basis of the study tours and desktop analysis reports, a draft Position on Land Administration and Tenure Reform in Communal Areas was developed, followed by a nationwide consultation process with relevant stakeholders. 

These consultations were held with the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, as well as with the various Provincial Houses of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, The National Khoi-San Council, Traditional Communities, academia, and civil society.  

The purpose of these consultations was to ensure that traditional leaders contribute to coming up with an appropriate policy framework to address issues of land administration and land tenure in communal areas. 

We believe that insights from the research, the study tours and the consultations can be brought to bear on this Summit’s deliberations, and can indeed help to enrich them 

We say all of these things, conscious of the fact that the issues that require our attention in this Summit are quite complex and at times emotive as well. 

However, we are equally confident that through putting our heads together, we will find common ground on what will ultimately be in the best interest of our communities

It is expected that the Summit will emerge with recommendations on national policy and the legislative framework for land administration and tenure reform in communal areas, with a long term goal of advancing socio-economic development in rural areas. 

In addressing land matters, we cannot forget about the Khoi-San people, who were also dispossessed of land in the earlier centuries. It was encouraging to hear that they were also consulted and will be allowed to make contribution at this Summit on how government should address issues of the Khoi-San communities. 

There is no doubt that there is more that we need to deliberate on even beyond this Summit, including the important matter of socio-economic development of traditional communities. 

That is why on 2nd February 2022, the President established the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Traditional Leadership. 

As the Task Team, we have already had a dialogue with traditional leadership, and have established work-streams to focus on specific issues of concern. 

We are pleased with progress made by the work-streams in resolving some of the outstanding issues that were raised by traditional leaders.

The speed in which we have resolved matters of concern around communal land tenure, may have taken longer than we all would have anticipated. This is a result of the realities of our history and the nature of our governance architecture. 

As government we will not tire, and are committed to ensuring that the outcomes of this Summit assist us in addressing the issues of communal land administration and land tenure in rural communities. 

We wish you well in your deliberations and await the outcomes of the summit. 

Thank you.