By Sowetan reporter Kgothatso Madisa
The general assumption that land was stolen from black people is not correct, this is according to Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota.
Speaking on Talk Radio 702 on Monday, Lekota said that white people who own land in South Africa bought it following negotiations which saw the introduction of title deeds.
“This word ‘stolen’ is a very unfortunate word. Look at the Cape for instance how that happened, [there were negotiations] between the Khoi and the Dutch initially and later on, of course, the English took over but there was a title introduced there, until that time there was no title (deed),” said Lekota.
“We must not leave our people with a wrong impression that every white person you see walking the streets is owning a land. The families that own the land are the families that bought them. And they are obliged to give them back to the government if a title deed is produced that ‘this is my land’.”
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has become the go-to party for South Africans who believe land should be expropriated from white owners without compensation and be given to black people.
Following the pressure from the EFF and other groups, the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) was forced to act on the land issue saying that the government should do away with paying “premium” prices when purchasing land for the purpose of land reform.
President Jacob Zuma also called for land expropriation without compensation debate to be prioritised.
Lekota said that the introduction of title deeds – something that did not exist before Europeans came to the African shores – allowed anyone with resources to acquire land.
“Africans did not have title before the advent of white European descendants, the title was introduced and when it was introduced, in the Cape colony, Natal colony, there was a qualified franchise and land purchase was available to everybody. That’s why today you have people that came from India as indentured labourers where they could raise the money they bought land. They own sugar cane fields today if you go in there.
The Cope leader said that black people did not originally own land in the South but that they just ‘occupied’ when they arrived from the North.
“We, the so-called Bantu-speaking South Africans, came from the North, from the Great Lakes, we overran territory here which was occupied by the Khoi and the San. There was no title, we just occupied that land. We were not even the original residents here. The people we call Baroa, the People of the South – Ba boroa, the People of the South, it’s the Khoi, the people we found here,” he said.
Asked why title deeds are a pre-condition for land ownership, Lekota said that they make it easier to identify the true owners of the certain land.
“If you took any land in this country, take any land from the white people, which black families will you give that land to? And which will not get? Because you won’t be able to give each and every one of the families. How will you identify that the Lekotas must get this land because they are black? Only because they are black? You must have criteria.
“That is why our people adopted title and surely negotiations were done even in the case of the Khoi, even in the case of Basotho, in the case of Batswana, everywhere, our people accepted and we began to develop South Africa on the basis that title has now arrived, if you can acquire resources you can buy this land and everybody was treated the same. So even when the land was taken under the 1913 Land Act, nobody could just say ‘I’m white I must get a piece of land’, they had to buy it,” he said.
According to Lekota, during the implementation of the Constitution, it was negotiated and all parties agreed that black people who acquired land through title deeds prior to the 1913 Land Act, those title deeds are still valid and they don’t have to buy it. “They are going to be given their land back because the 1913 Land Act took that title from them without paying them money”.