Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the KwaZulu-Natal Land Reform Pilot Programme, KwaNobamba (Weenen)

26 March 1995

Minister of Land Affairs;
Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

With freedom and democracy last year, came restoration of the right to land. And with it, the opportunity to address the effects of centuries of dispossesion and denial.

It is therefore a matter of great pride for me, to be here to launch this project. At last we can, as a people, look our ancestors in the face and say: Your sacrifices were not in vain. The time has come to correct the wrongs that colonial invasion brought on our communities.

In addressing land hunger, the Government of National Unity is not engaged in a simplistic, punitive and unproductive exercise. We seek a solution that is generally acceptable to all, an approach that eliminates the suspicion, mistrust, and anger that have characterised land disputes over the years.

Furthermore, our land redistribution policy insists on the effective and productive use of land as a resource in a sustainable way.

Our Pilot Land Reform Programme is concrete first step in our land redistribution programme. This in turn is central to rural development, which will address the poverty, unemployment, mainutrition and economic depression that characterises so much of our rural areas. As such land reform is an integral part of the Reconstruction and Development Programme aimed at bringing a better life for all.

So we are here in KwaNobamba today to launch the first pilot land reform project for this province. This project, together with the eight similar projects in the other provinces, is a test, its lessons will be applied to each district and locality across the country over time.

It is because these projects open the way for systematic land reform and rural development, that they were made part of Presidential Projects announced at the start of our first democratically elected Parliament.

This area, the Escourt-Weenen District was chosen for this test because here there are already land-related and planning initiatives under way. The people of this area have demonstrated that they are ready to shoulder responsibility for their own development and resolve their own problems.

The way in which you handled a threatened land invasion last year, as well as the farmworkers and farm tenants strike early this year demonstrated the maturity of the people of this area. The planning, joint efforts and negotiations that have gone into the land acquisition process left government in no doubt that the people of this district can provide a model for others. We are confident that the 35 million rand that we shall be ploughing into this project over the next three years will be money well spent.

Community involvement and mass participation in development efforts lie at the heart of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. There can be no development without community participation. You are reaping the fruits of your co-operation and creativity. We are today launching a project that will benefit your rural community of 45,000 people. It will help bring jobs and a better standard of living.

In the successful implementation of such projects, local authorities have a crucial role to play. They will receive state grants on behalf of the community. They will determine who benefits and they will oversee the project. This is why you must ensure that you register for the November elections. You must put in place a democratic local authority that is responsive to your needs; an authority that will sustain what your community has done so far and improve on it.

In this way, we shall all make the RDP work!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation