The return of land to dispossessed people is crucial in restoring the identity of South Africans.
This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa who was delivering a keynote address at the Heritage Day celebrations in Upington, Northern Cape, today.
Ramaphosa said that land formed a big part of people’s identity before it was taken from them and that it was necessary to return and restore land to poor people for either farming, housing or business.
“We must say it very clearly. Our history, our identity as South Africans is closely linked to the question of land and it is for that reason that we say that land must be returned to our people because that is what really shapes our identity,” said Ramaphosa to loud cheers.
The land question has been a touchy subject in the country, especially after the ruling party, the ANC, took a resolution at its elective conference in 2017 that land must returned to the poor without any compensation.
A presidential advisory panel on land reform and agriculture in July released its report which, among others, recommended that the Land Claims Court must be strengthened to deal with restitution claims.
The panel also recommended the establishment of a land reform fund to aid land acquisition.
“As a people, we cannot have an identity without the land. The history of our forebears tells us that they were so closely linked with the land and when the land was taken away from them, it was like their identity and their being was stripped away from them," said Ramaphosa.
“So our job, our task, must be to restore the identity of our people by making sure that we do speak our languages, we do practise our traditions, we observe our cultures and we return the land to our people as well,” said Ramaphosa.
His keynote address also focused on the preservation of indigenous languages which he said must be added to the school curriculum. Ramaphosa said that all languages must be given equal attention.
“There is no language in this country that is superior to another. There is no language we can say belongs to the past and must stay there. Every single language spoken in this country has equal value and equal worth,” said Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, DA leader Mmusi Maimane told residents in Soweto, south of Johannesburg, that efforts should be put into building a reconciled society and economy that can be shared across the country.
He urged people to be wary of people who sought to sow cultural divisions.
“Reconciliation doesn’t mean that we must all surrender our diversity. It doesn’t mean we must give up our identity or apologize for our race, culture or language. It is an acknowledgement and a celebration of our diversity, and recognition that this diversity is what makes us strong and resilient. Black and white, young and old, Xhosa, Zulu or Afrikaans, we are better and stronger together,” said Maimane.
“So when others come and tell you that we are each other’s enemies, don’t listen to them. When they find scapegoats among us for their own failures, don’t listen to them. When they tell you that certain people or languages don’t belong in this country, tell them that they most certainly do not speak for you.”