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Vacant piece of land
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
6 November 2019, 5:51 PM

This week we shine the spotlight on the Restitution of Land Act 22 of 1994.

Parliament adopted the Act, aimed at correcting past injustices brought about by the 1913 Natives Land Act, on the 8th of November.

This paved the way for millions of South Africans who were forcibly removed from their homes since 19 June 1913 to lodge claims for the return of the land or compensation.

The Land Claims Commission and Land Claims Court were later established to make this a reality.

The Commission dealt with the administration of claims and compensation of those who are returning the land to initial owners, while the Court handled disputes arising out of laws on land reform.

Watch debate on Restitution of Land Act:

Following concerns over the slow pace of redress, the Restitution Act was amended in 1997 to allow claimants direct access to the Land Claims Court. The Rural Development and Land Reform Minister was also authorised to settle claims through talks.

While this somewhat improved things, more still needs to be done to fast-track the process.

So far, only between 6% and 8% of land claims lodged have been settled.

Lack of political will has been blamed for this.

 Listen to former President Kgalema Motlanthe’s views on this:

Amid continued growing public discontent over the snail pace of the land reform project, with some blaming the willing-buyer-willing-seller concept, the governing ANC in 2017 took a policy position to expropriate land without compensation.

Parliament in 2018 approved the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for this to happen.

The move followed public hearings in all the country’s nine provinces, which were conducted by Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee.

Watch related video:

President Cyril Ramaphosa has, however, emphasised the need for this to be handled appropriately.

In September 2018, he appointed a land advisory panel to advise the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform on how best to deal with policy matters related to land reform.

These included areas of redistribution, tenure security and agricultural support.

The panel released its report to the public in July 2019.

It was divided on the need to amend the Constitution and the issue of compensation.

The majority advocated for no compensation in cases of expropriation of land in the public interest.

These include abandoned land, hopelessly indebted land; land owned by state entities and not utilised; informal settlement areas; land obtained through criminal activity and land already occupied and used by labour tenants and former labour tenants.

It also called for a Land Tax Inquiry to consider a rates policy to disincentivise the retention of unproductive landholdings.

Watch advisory panel’s media briefing on the land issue:

While it’s not yet clear when government will respond to the panel’s recommendations, it has assured South Africans of its commitment to see the land returned to the majority of Black people, who are still trapped in squalor and poverty – 25 years after the dawn of democracy.

Watch President receiving the panel’s report:

Background on the 1913 Land Act

The 1913 Natives Land Act legislated already existing racial discriminatory practices of land ownership.

According to the South African History Online, colonialists forced the Black majority off their land through annexation and the division of territory.

Overtime – proclamations were made and laws were enacted by both the Afrikaners and the British to dislodge African people from their land while consolidating areas of White settlement.

By the time the Land Act was enacted, spatial segregation through land dispossession was already in motion.

It barred the Black majority from buying or hiring land in 93% of South Africa. It is also described as having laid the foundation for other legislation which further entrenched dispossession of Black people and segregation later of Coloured and Indian people.

The Act initially confined Blacks to 7% ownership of the land. It was later increased to 13 following the passing of the Native and Land Trust Act of 1936.

FeesMustFall banner
Young people and democracy
5 November 2019, 5:56 PM

Historically young people and injustice just don’t mix.

Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Thabo Mbeki, Tsietsie Mashinini and many other struggle heroes were youngsters when they conceived the dream of a free South Africa.

The youth of 76 forced government to abandon its plan for Black students to be taught in Afrikaans.

During 2015 and 2016 the students’ protracted battle for free higher education reached its climax, leading to the exemption of poor families from paying fees.

Yet over the years our Parliament and key decision-making structures have been led by older people.

While this year saw a 5% increase in young lawmakers compared to the fifth administration, some believe the appointments are just cosmetic.

Our producer Lindiwe Mabena probes whether voices of young people are being taken seriously in democratic South Africa.

Watch report below:

Watch public views on whether young voices are being taken seriously in SA:

Poster on equal education
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
30 October 2019, 4:37 PM


This week we focus on government’s decision to cut funding in former Model C schools.

Then Education Minister Professor Sibusiso Bhengu dropped the bombshell on 31 October, 1994. The move sought to reconstruct a deeply fragmented and discriminatory education system.

The end goal was to establish an equal and unified national system, which reflects the principles of a new South Africa.

Minister Bhengu also set aside R20 million for 1994-1995 to assist poor students at tertiary institutions.

He further promised to upgrade Black schools, which were in bad shape and lacked basic services like water, electricity and in some instances toilets.

The project, which included a primary school nutrition scheme, kicked off in 1995.

Government also did away with racially defined education departments and replaced them with a national system.

Same country, glaring differences

The experience of White and Black learners had vast differences prior to democratic South Africa. Initially, White schools had more than 10 times funding per pupil than those serving Black children.

Although the National Party government increased the budget for the township and rural schools as time progressed, on average it spent R1 211 for each White child and R146 for their Black counterparts in 1982.

White teachers were also paid more. However, salary scales are now the same for all educators, despite their race. The only distinguishing factor is a teacher’s level of education.


Watch related clip below:

Inferior education

The quality of education for the Black majority was also bottom of the class. Schools lacked resources and teaching aids like textbooks, laboratories and stationary.

While White teachers had university degrees, only 2.3% of their counterparts from the Black community had a university qualification. 82% of the Black teachers had no matric and were also not qualified in key subjects, like Mathematics and Physical Science.

The aim was to ensure that Black children grew up to join their parents in low-paying occupations like farm and domestic work.

Then Natives Affairs Minister who later became South Africa’s Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd argued in 1953, “There is no place for (the Bantu) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. What is the use of teaching the Bantu child Mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?”

Most Black learners dropped out of school due to various reasons, including lack of motivation as opportunities for further education were fewer for them.

Those living in rural areas generally started schooling late, if at all. They had extended burden of travelling long distances and dangerous terrain to get to school as well as assisting with household chores like herding livestock.

Researchers say while the country has succeeded in establishing racial equity in the schooling system, overhauling apartheid’s deep-rooted systemic and structural inequalities remains a challenge.

Poor infrastructure, lack of toilets, reliable electricity and water remain a headache and an impediment to quality teaching and learning, especially in rural areas.



Prof Ivor Sarakinsky
Questions over the effectiveness of Commissions of inquiry
29 October 2019, 5:58 PM


South Africa has had 16 Commissions of inquiry in 23 years.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was democratic South Africa’s first inquiry ever, but the country has had numerous others since then.

The probes include the Zondo Commission, where shocking claims of how the public purse has been fleeced through dubious deals, have emerged.

The bill for each inquiry runs into millions of rands  – with the State Capture commission tab already standing at more than R356-million.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has put the cost of corruption during the Zuma years at about a trillion rand.

However, there have been concerns about the exorbitant price tags of these inquiries, with some South Africans lamenting their lack of prosecutorial teeth.

Our producer Lindiwe Mabena probes the necessity of truth even when justice might not prevail.

Watch report below:

This week in 1994: Democracy 25
23 October 2019, 6:07 PM


This week we mark the start of government’s new large-scale electrification programme.

The project was in line with the ANC government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which sought to ensure equal access to basic services for all South Africans.

On 26 October 1994, Eskom announced plans to spend R250 million to electrify 2500 schools and clinics in the country.

2.5 million houses were also to be connected to the grid over a five-year period.

The drive was a result of talks that had been held in 1992 at the National Electrification Conference, where a forum was established to shape an electrification plan for a new South Africa.

The ANC was involved in the negotiations as they ran concurrently with the political transition talks.

According to the GNESD Energy Access Knowledge Base website, stakeholders sought a plan that would be politically and practically sound and implementable.

The electrification conference also led the establishment of the National Electricity Regulator.

More than 5.2 million homes were connected to the grid between 1994 and 2010.

Twelve thousand schools were also electrified.

Preparations for the electrification programme were done in the late 80s and it was a second phase of South Africa’s electrification drive, which had mostly been in rural White farm households.

In the 80s, less than a third of the South African population had access to electricity.


At first, the power utility largely financed the programme.

The Treasury began funding the capital cost in 2000, using a national electrification fund.

Municipalities are the major distributors of electricity although Eskom does the same in some areas.

To date, Eskom, municipalities and non-grid service providers have connected at least 88% of South African households.

However, high electricity costs and power reliability remain a concern in some quarters.

While about 2.6% of South Africans benefit from government’s Free Basic Electricity, some say the high cost of living and rapid rise in electricity prices is turning electricity into a luxury for families who are already battling to pay municipal rates.

It’s also left finances of several major cities in the red.

Customers are now either reducing the use of electricity through energy efficiency mechanisms or theft. Others are switching to alternative sources.





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