South Africa’s land reforms will include issuing title deeds to small-scale farmers living on tribal lands, a senior ruling party official said on Friday, in comments likely to rile powerful traditional chiefs.
The remarks by Ronald Lamola, a member of the African National Congress’ (ANC) top governing body and one of the party’s land reform representatives, contrast with previous statements by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa assured the Zulu King, who wields considerable influence over swathes of voters in ANC heartlands, in July, that the vast territory that he controls through a trust was off the land reform table.
“When we give the security of tenure, we need to do it in the whole country,” Lamola said in response to questions during a panel discussion on land policy, adding that that would aim to solve the problem that people who live on tribal lands “can be evicted at any time by a chief.”
Asked if he meant the possibility of title deeds being granted to the mostly subsistence farmers who reside in these impoverished rural enclaves, he said, “Yes. Security of tenure includes leases, it includes title deeds.”
The discourse around South Africa’s land issue has been dominated by the ANC’s plans to change the constitution to expropriate land without compensation to rectify enduring racial disparities.
A parallel political discussion has been about providing land ownership to the 17 million people, a third of the population, who reside on communal tribal lands comprising 13% of South Africa’s territory.
Tribal chiefs have urged the ANC to exclude their areas from its land reform drive.
The Zulu King evoked the 19th century Anglo-Zulu war and the specter of conflict over the issue.
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