In­di­ans also suf­fered from forced re­movals

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THE cur­rent de­bate tak­ing place on land re­form in South Africa has been long over­due.

The his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tice of ap­por­tion­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of land in the coun­try in 1913 to a small mi­nor­ity just had to be ad­dressed.

The big ques­tion was: how to achieve this in a fair and eq­ui­table man­ner. Ways have to be found to en­sure the restora­tion of prop­erty rights for all South Africans and main­tain­ing food se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

An im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to this con­tro­ver­sial de­bate emerged last week when for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki ques­tioned the ANC’s stance on the is­sue, ar­gu­ing it was a de­par­ture from the rul­ing party’s orig­i­nal mis­sion of cre­at­ing a non-racial so­ci­ety.

What has aroused sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion, as well as con­cern, is Mbeki’s view that the ANC’s res­o­lu­tion on land lit­er­ally amounts to ex­pro­pri­at­ing land from one group for the ben­e­fit of an­other.

When men­tion is made of ex­pro­pri­at­ing land for the pur­pose of trans­fer­ring it to “our peo­ple”, who ex­actly are we re­fer­ring to?

This am­bi­gu­ity has be­come an is­sue of ma­jor con­cern among mem­bers of the In­dian com­mu­nity, who were re­garded as “non-whites” and part of the op­pressed un­der apartheid.

Many of them have in re­cent months be­come vic­tims of il­le­gal land grabs and fear they may be driven out of homes they spent their lives pay­ing for.

What must be re­mem­bered is that mem­bers of the In­dian com­mu­nity suf­fered great hard­ship and mis­ery through forced re­movals un­der the no­to­ri­ous Group Ar­eas Act.

The for­mer city coun­cil in Dur­ban, em­bold­ened by the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate at the height of apartheid, forced more than 60 000 In­dian peo­ple to leave their homes.

Many ar­eas like Clair­wood, River­side, Spring­field and the old Mag­a­zine Bar­racks were turned into in­dus­trial es­tates and res­i­den­tial and recre­ational ar­eas for the city’s white res­i­dents. This is how the town­ships of Chatsworth and Phoenix were cre­ated.

Land re-dis­tri­bu­tion is crit­i­cal to the fu­ture pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity of our coun­try if we hope to re­dress the im­bal­ances of the past.

It is for this rea­son that we should work to­wards en­sur­ing that all those who suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion un­der apartheid be given a fair and just deal.

And this can best be achieved by what Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa re­cently told Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May in Cape Town – that what­ever mea­sures the gov­ern­ment im­ple­ments, it will not lead to il­le­gal land seizures. Let’s live up to the ideal that South Africa be­longs to all who live in it, as es­poused in the Free­dom Char­ter.

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