Witness: Landless frustrated with Land Reform


Landless frustrated with Land Reform

by Thamsanqa Magubane

THE Department of Rural Development and Land Reform came under heavy criticism yesterday as frustrated landless people laid the blame for their plight on its inability to settle land disputes.

A large group of members of the Abahlali Basemjondolo, the Landless People’s Movement and the Rural Network marched to the department’s offices to hand over a memorandum of their grievances.

Many travelled from as far as Durban, Eshowe, and Utrecht.

They said the office had failed on its mandate to deliver land to communities and needed a complete overhaul.

“This office is useless. It never does anything for the community, and it should undergo what is called renewal or renovations,” said Sthembiso Mahlaba of the Landless People’s Movement.

“We filed land claims years ago and those have been ignored by the officials. In the event that we do get that one farm from the many that we have claimed, the officials also keep saying they will lease it to us. The farm dwellers are never a concern for them,” said Mahlaba.

Pastor Sibusiso Mthethwa, a leader of the march, lambasted the department employees for their lack of compassion.

This after a small group of employees had abandoned their workstations and stood on the stairway and balcony to gawk and laugh at the protesters.

“These people are standing here behind us, laughing. They view what we are doing here as a big joke; they do not realise that we are here trying to express the pain that we are feeling.”

Mthethwa said it was shocking that after years of democracy, black people still found themselves marching to have their concerns addressed. “These [marchers] are the same people that vote. They are responsible for the local, provincial and the national governments, yet they find themselves neglected by that same government.”
He said the failure to address land issues had left communities, especially in rural areas, vulnerable to abuse.

“On the farms, people are still being evicted arbitrarily. They are not allowed to bury their people there, and children older than two are forced to move out of the farms.”

“In cities, those who lived in shacks were condemned to live in those conditions or in one-room houses that were not ideal for family habitation.”

Khetha Nzimande, the Acting Director at Land Reform, said the concerns raised would receive “the necessary attention”.