Land of plenty: South Africans must remember that the country is vast and the soil is rich, deputy president David Mabuza said at a Heritage Day event in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE/GCIS
Land of plenty: South Africans must remember that the country is vast and the soil is rich, deputy president David Mabuza said at a Heritage Day event in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE/GCIS

In the context of the land debate, deputy president David Mabuza says SA is a land of abundance and can provide for everyone.

Using Heritage Day on Sunday to deal with fears over land reform, Mabuza emphasised there is enough to go around, to share and to end poverty and that the country needs to be united. Mabuza is the chair of the interministerial committee on land reform appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"It is understandable that human beings are prone, in times of national strife, in times of bitter socioeconomic hardship, in times of hard debates about land reform, to retreat easily into narrow nationalist, racial and ethnic enclaves," he said in Kokstad.

"However, I stand in front of you on this day to state with conviction that this path we have chosen, is the correct one." This is the path which would unite the country, he said.

The country has been seized with heated debate on land reform since the ANC conference in December 2017 when it resolved to investigate whether the constitution needed to be amended on expropriation without compensation.

As we celebrate this important day we must confront with determination the historical fault-lines and injustices that continue to threaten our peace and stability so that we can move forward as one people‚ one nation and one SA founded on shared values

In February, the ANC partnered with the EFF in parliament to set in motion a consultative process on the expropriation of land without compensation. The EFF wants all land to belong to the state, but the ANC’s stance remains unclear.

Ramaphosa announced in June that the governing party had decided to change the constitution to make expropriation of land without compensation more explicit. The move was seen as reflecting the majority perspective as expressed in hearings of a constitutional review committee on the issue. This sparked further fears over property rights and food security.

"As we celebrate this important day we must confront with determination the historical fault-lines and injustices that continue to threaten our peace and stability so that we can move forward as one people‚ one nation and one SA founded on shared values‚" said Mabuza.

"If we do not confront this reality and sad state of affairs‚ we would just be burying our heads in the sand and causing a huge source of frustration and resentment to all those who were brutally dispossessed of their land‚" he said.

"Despite our fears we must remember that the land is vast, our soil is rich, the belly of our earth is pregnant with hope and possibility, our minerals are overflowing and our oceans are teeming with potential," he said.

"We have enough to create wealth, prosperity, opportunity and development for all."

Mabuza said a person’s heritage should not be exclusionary but all-embracing of others.

The country needs to confront the historical injustices which continues to threaten peace and stability and move forward as one, he said.

"We have enough to create wealth‚ prosperity‚ opportunity and development for all …. Yet‚ our people still cannot sow to reap. They cannot work the land to own it. They have no means of production and no heritage to fully embrace and benefit from."

The country’s heightened sense of retreat to the past was threatening national unity.

The EFF used the Heritage Day celebrations to call on the government to give land back to the people. "On this day‚ we reiterate our call for the return of the land through the amendment of our constitution to allow expropriation without compensation‚" said spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

"The most important heritage upon which all culture is based is the land‚" he said.

Ndlozi presented a wish list to the government. "We call on the government to remove Die Stem from our national anthem‚ including the removal of all apartheid and colonial statues and symbols. These symbols perpetuate the comfort of racists and white supremacy."

DA leader Mmusi Maimane chose to spread a message of hope. "Wishing all our people‚ a beautiful Heritage Day. SA is a tapestry of different yesterdays‚ cultures and races. We begun a journey of learning from each other. At times our divisions become manifest‚ but I still maintain‚ we are better together building‚" he tweeted.

with Naledi Shange

quintalg@businesslive.co.za