Indians also suffered from forced removals
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.