Ramaphosa: Returning the land will ‘restore the dignity of our people’
President Cyril Ramaphosa tackled the land question and vowed that government will implement land reform to address the apartheid injustice of land dispossession.
Delivering the 8th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town on Monday‚ Ramaphosa said the dispossession of black people of their land manifested itself in a violent manner bereft of any notions of peace.
“Apartheid stripped black people – Africans‚ coloureds and Indians – of their land and their assets‚ impoverishing families for generations and robbing them of their dignity.
“The evictions of farm workers‚ especially here in the Western Cape‚ continues unabated‚” he said to applause from the largely white crowd that filled the Artscape auditorium.
“It is‚ therefore‚ vital‚ if we are to restore the dignity of our people and break the cycle of poverty‚ that we address the land question so that there can be peace and prosperity amongst our people. This will also give us the chance to heal the wounds of the past‚” he said.
Ramaphosa explained that it was in this context that South Africans must understand the drive to accelerate land reform through redistribution‚ restitution and tenure security.
“It is in the interests of both social justice and economic development that we ensure that the land is shared among all those who work it and all those who need it.”
Effective land reform‚ where emerging farmers are provided with adequate support and poor households receive well-located land for housing in urban centres‚ is both a moral and economic imperative‚ said the president.
“It unleashes great economic potential‚ not only of the land‚ but also of the people who work on it and live on it‚” he added.
Ramaphosa received a standing ovation when he arrived at the venue and another when he was about to begin his address. Cape Town audiences have previously been cold towards ANC leaders‚ especially towards former president Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa also addressed rampant abuse against women in South African society‚ saying that in searching for a just and equal society‚ gender relations needed to be fundamentally transformed.
“We cannot have a free society‚ we cannot have a peaceful world‚ for as long as women are discriminated against‚ exploited‚ neglected and abused. We cannot tolerate the social norms and cultural practices that diminish‚ in any way‚ the equal rights and equal worth of women‚” he said.
Ramaphosa added that this required a change in attitude and consciousness‚ a social movement that reached into every home‚ classroom‚ workplace and relationship.
He praised and thanked Tutu for his lifetime role spent in the service of peace‚ understanding and social justice.
Tutu‚ who turned 87 on Sunday‚ couldn’t attend the event because he remains in hospital.
“As the Arch celebrated his 87th birthday‚ we marvelled at the generosity of spirit‚ the strength of character and the love of humanity that he has exuded for as long as we have known him.”
He also highlighted Tutu’s role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as he addressed another sensitive topic: the inequality of South African society.
“As South Africans‚ we know that peace is not merely the absence of war‚ but also the absence of injustice. There are still millions in our society who live in poverty‚ who are socially excluded and economically marginalised.
“We cannot speak of true freedom when the constitutionally guaranteed rights to quality health care‚ to quality education‚ to decent housing and to a clean environment continue not to be enjoyed by many South Africans.
“We cannot speak of true freedom when 10% of the population has more wealth than the remaining 90% combined; when women are discriminated against at their places of work and abused in their homes; and when privilege and poverty follow the same racial contours of a colonial past.
“We will not be able to say we have achieved freedom for all our people until we have corrected the historical injustice of accumulation by a minority on the basis of dispossession of the majority‚” he added.
He said that until the wealth in South Africa was shared among the people and the land was shared among all who work it‚ there would be no lasting peace.
“It is nearly 25 years since we embarked upon this part of our long journey to peace and freedom.”
Ramaphosa said having brought an end to “the heinous crime” of apartheid‚ South Africans set out to put right the wrongs of the past and to build a new society and an essential part of that journey was the search for truth and reconciliation‚ which found its manifestation in the TRC under Tutu’s leadership.
“The TRC was in itself a key instrument of justice in a country that was in transition from a past of human rights violations to democracy. It required that the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses to account for their actions‚ but it also provided them with an opportunity to recognise the humanity of their victims and exposed to them the myth of racial superiority.
“Burnt into our collective memory are the images of how distressed Emeritus Archbishop Tutu was as he heard evidence of the horrors and atrocities meted out against our people by agents of a murderous system that was entirely based on the false hierarchy of races‚” he said.