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Africa: Land Issue – Africa Must Not Compromise

Author: Lovemore Ranga Matairei

South African President Jacob Zuma recently signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill into law in a landmark move that is set to empower the government to expropriate white land for distribution to landless blacks. The law is also a test case for the South African government’s resolve in finally fulfilling one of the contentious and emotive issues that inspired the anti-apartheid movement.

The effect of the law is that it re- opens the restitution claims process that closed at the end of 1998 and gives the claimants five years to lodge land claims.  Only 80 000 land restitution claims were lodged in 1998 and it is estimated that there are up to five times as many valid cases that are to be brought by victims of apartheid’s forced removals.

Predictably, the bulk of the South African Press relegated the land Bill story to inside pages with no more than five paragraphs and without any background information.  The indifferent reportage by the media is not without basis as most of them are owned by whites who also happen to be the target of the land redistribution exercise.

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