Thuli Madonsela. Picture: REUTERS
Thuli Madonsela. Picture: REUTERS

On Thursday, former public protector Thuli Madonsela lamented that land expropriation without compensation often took place in rural communities — most of it illegal.

Speaking at the Nelson Mandela University during its Mandela’s centenary celebrations — under the theme of social justice — Madonsela said that she had come across a village where expropriation of land happened without compensation virtually every day. She would not name the village because she was still going to engage with residents there.

"[Residents] said it happens in two ways: the first is the indunas [headmen] and some of the amakhosis [chiefs] say that if your land is not utilised for two years it reverts back to the induna or the inkosi. I am still looking for a law that says that‚ and I did promise them that I am going to engage with the Department of Land Affairs because the last time I checked customary law‚ there was no such thing."

Madonsela said the second way in which land use was taken from families in rural communities was that the family would lose access to land if the person who had been given permission to use it had died. "Currently‚ in that place‚ if your father dies‚ that right expires with the death of the father."

She cited a case‚ which she still had to verify‚ where a father died and left land with sugar cane. The man’s family was refused access to the land and was told the sugar cane and the land now belonged to the chief. "If this is true‚ it is not funny. It is a violation of the Constitution‚ it is a violation of the law — even the old law, because Section 25, which protects the right to property‚ includes all property rights, including rights that are less than ownership."

On social justice‚ Madonsela said that it had to be across the board and not just based on race. Citing figures from the Department of Land Affairs‚ she said 75% of land in SA remained in white hands‚ and that 73% of agricultural land remained in white hands.

However‚ she said anecdotal evidence showed that most of tribal land remained in the hands of men. "When we are dealing with social injustice and when we are dealing with the dream of social justice‚ we are looking at fairness and justice for all‚ not just in terms of colour but in terms of gender as well‚ in terms of age and everything."