Press Release 23 August
President, Ministers challenged to act on land reform and redistribution
Today, 8 social movements from across South Africa will submit requests to President Cyril Ramaphosa to donate 32 pieces of vacant and underutilised public land to communities living with insecure tenure by making use of the State Land Disposal Act. There will be political actions to mark the submissions of requests for donations of land in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. In Cape Town, the march will move from Mowbray to the President’s official residence of Genadendal in Newlands for the handing over of requests, while in Johannesburg, the movements making applications will march on the BRICS summit to President Ramaphosa himself.
The extent of dispossession of land under colonial rule and apartheid is an enduring issue. Forced removal and legislated land theft are the basis of apartheid spatial geography today. Since the advent of democracy in 1994, issues at the heart of the land question are the reversal of dispossession and how a large-scale redistribution of land can contribute to the transformation of the economy and the reduction of poverty, both rural and urban. Across the country, millions upon millions of people live in unsuitable conditions under the constant threat of eviction.
At the same time, a vast amount of vacant and underutilised public land has been allowed to sit idle for decades. Urban land reform has failed, housing delivery has declined spectacularly and the geography of apartheid remains largely unchanged.
Along with our social movement partners, Ndifuna Ukwazi is offering the government a clear solution that could considerably ease our tenure security and housing crises. The land and housing situation in South Africa continues to get worse each year and it is time to take action and implement solutions that are well within reach.
Providing donations of land through the State Land Disposal Act is perhaps the fastest and quickest route to building homes and neighbourhoods that genuinely serve the interests of their residents and the wider community at large.
The State Land Disposal Act 48 of 1961 grants the President the power to donate, sell, lease or exchange any piece of public land in the country. The same power is conferred to both national and provincial ministers of Public Works. While such donations need to take place in terms of a range of other laws, there is no legal barrier that prevents public land from being donated to communities so that people can live decent, secure, dignified and productive lives.
A variety of different types of land is being requested. Some communities are requesting ownership of pieces of public land they have lived on for upwards of 40 years. Others, particularly those living in unsuitable areas, are requesting alternative pieces of public land that have remained vacant and underutilised for decades. What all of these communities have in common is that they need access to and control over land in order to invest in and improve their own homes, access government services, and create safe, liveable neighbourhoods.
We are working with a range of social movements focused on land and housing. Some have been around for decades while others have formed more recently. The full list of social movements involved in this round of requests are Indibano Yabahlali, Intlungu YaseMatyotyombeni, Reclaim the City, Housing Assembly, Surplus People’s Project, Barney Malokoena section, Abahlali baseMjondolo (KZN) and Inner City Federation (JHB).
Our country’s history is replete with racist dispossession and forced removal – more than 3.5 million people were forcefully removed under the Group Areas Act alone. Many, many more people were denied tenure security no matter where they lived or how long they had lived there. Today, little has changed.
“The housing backlog continues to grow, evictions are widespread and informal settlements are growing rapidly and most significantly it is women and female headed households who are most affected. The housing, and social situation in South Africa will continue to get progressively worse unless radical action is taken.
State incapacity, rapid urbanisation, widespread unemployment and weak economic performance have all combined to create a thoroughly unsustainable situation across the country. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by the fact that while there were 300 informal settlements in 1994, there are close to 3,000 today.”
Noziphiwo Sigwela – researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi
“Government housing delivery is less than half of what it was two decades ago, and there is more visible homelessness in all of our metropolitan municipalities than at any other point.
Decent private housing remains out of reach – for instance, less than 25% of Cape Town households can afford the cheapest home on the market. Put simply, the majority of South Africans are structurally excluded from accessing decent housing through either the state or the private sector.
The consequences for people’s lives and for our country as a whole are devastating. It is time to use all the tools at our disposal to create cities that are more just, more fair and more efficient.”
Luyanda Mtamzeli – Political Organiser at Ndifuna Ukwazi
NOTE: This submission action marks the first phase of such applications. Many more communities from across the country will be submitting applications in the coming months, showing the real extent of landless communities who can no longer wait on an ailing state.