Remembrance: President Jacob Zuma at the tomb of the Black Consciousness leader Steve Bantu Biko ahead of the national commemoration of Human Rights Day in King William’s Town. Picture: GCIS
Remembrance: President Jacob Zuma at the tomb of the Black Consciousness leader Steve Bantu Biko ahead of the national commemoration of Human Rights Day in King William’s Town. Picture: GCIS

President Jacob Zuma toned down his comments on land reform during his address at the official Human Rights Day commemoration in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday, saying the government would use "available instruments" to expedite land redistribution.

"As part of our commitment to the restoration of human dignity of our people, we will be taking practical and reasonable measures to return the land to the people," he said.

"We will use all available instruments necessary in expediting land redistribution and respond to land hunger."

This was in contrast to Zuma’s comments earlier in March, when he told the National House of Traditional Leaders that the Constitution needed to be changed to allow for the restitution of land without compensation. He said all "black parties" in Parliament needed to work together to do this.

The ANC’s policy discussion documents are far removed from Zuma’s earlier comments on land. The policy document on economic transformation proposes that the government do away with paying a premium price when buying land for reform and that instead it gives just and equitable compensation for land.

Zuma was in Ginsberg, King William’s Town, on Tuesday for the government’s official Human Rights Day commemoration. He was accompanied by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle.

Before the commemoration event, Zuma officially handed over a memorial gravesite of Steve Biko to the Biko family.

During his address, Zuma touched on the social grants fiasco and assured beneficiaries they would be paid on April 1.

"Government pays social grants to almost 17-million social grants recipients, which is a huge achievement in fighting poverty," he said. "Let me take this opportunity to once again assure all who receive social grants that they will receive their money at the end of the month."

Speaking in isiZulu, he assured beneficiaries that all the problems around the payment of grants had been sorted out.

Zuma also said the country needed "liberated minds" to achieve radical transformation.

He said the country needed to "promote the emancipation of the mind" in memory of Biko.

"Most importantly, compatriots, the economy must be unbundled so that we can loosen white monopoly control and allow … black people into the mainstream of the economy," Zuma said.

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