Ramaphosa on land: My own family had land stolen from them more than once, it's a collective pain -South Africa

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During a land restitution ceremony, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that he felt the pain of those who were removed from their land, as his family's land was also stolen on two occasions.

Ramaphosa made these comments on Saturday morning in Mamelodi where he officiated a land restitution ceremony that marked successful claims by 10 Gauteng communities who were presented with title deeds and financial compensation.

"All of us have this collective pain. My own family went through the pain of being forcibly removed, our land stolen and taken away on two occasions," Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa added that the wound of dispossession and degradation was still visible and still open. 

"But we are saying as government that we are willing to heal this wound and it will be healed when the land is given back to the rightful owners."

Land Claims 

The successful land claims, totaling R203 million, were facilitated by the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights to the benefit of communities in the cities of Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Ekurhuleni. Title deeds were handed over to the Mahlangu and Malobola families on Saturday while financial compensation would be presented for the nine other successful claimants. 

Ramaphosa said that these groups lost their land when they were abruptly removed from their properties by pre-democratic administrations who acted in terms of the 1913 Natives Land Act.

"We are today celebrating the settlement of ten land claims in Gauteng that were lodged before 31 December 1998." 

"Many of our people have waited for far too long for this process of land restitution and compensation to be completed. We appreciate the patience and the perseverance of claimants, but recognise that much more needs to be done and with greater urgency."

The president said it was found that Malobolo family occupied the land in question from the 1800s to 1967 and the Mahlangu family from 1936 to 1960. 

"The painful stories of these two families echo across the country in a thousand different places, where people were deprived of their birth right, their land and their livelihoods."

He detailed evidence, which included lawyers letters and oral evidence that legitimised the claims.

Stolen land

Ramaphosa also said that anyone questioning whether the land was stolen, needed to only look at historic texts for answers. 

Ramaphosa said when foreigners first came to what was now known as South Africa, they were welcomed with open arms. He said these settlers were given refuge, friendship, food and land.

"But because they were driven by greed, they decided that was not enough. Then they set aside by taking the most valued possession, the land from our people. They forcibly took the land from our people."

"Land taken without compensation, what do you call that? Is that not theft? That is theft."

Land reform is about the future

However, Ramaphosa said people should not dwell on the past, but would look to the past to inform them of how to navigate to the future.

"Land reform, however, is ultimately about the future.

"It is about building a South Africa which belongs to all who live in it, and in which all South Africans belong.

"What we are witnessing today is a new South Africa being built from the ashes of the old. We are witnessing families and communities receiving what rightfully belongs to them."