Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Lephatsoana II Trust Open Day, Amersfoort

21 June 1997

Premier of Mpumalanga Province;
Deputy Minister of Agriculture;
Members of the Provincial Executive and Legislature;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a real pleasure and a privilege to be with you all on this joyful and historic occasion. It is, indeed, heartening to see such wonderful developments in our rural areas, knowing that this is just the beginning of building a better life.

For many generations the land has been at the heart of division and conflict in our country. Daggakraal is a community that knows that history only too well.

When Pixley Seme organised African farmers to purchase Daggakraal, he was seeking a way of realising the right of all our people to use the land to sustain themselves and contribute to the wealth of the country. It was not to be. The area did not find fame as a centre of agricultural production. Instead it became known for its fierce resistance to forced removal.

That is a history which can be told across our land, in our towns and cities and every corner of the rural areas.

That is why land reform has such an important place in our reconstruction and development programme.

And that is why the handing over of the title deeds to the Lephatsoana II Trust fills us with such joy. It shows us that today there is a way for communities to organise together and join hands with government to achieve what Pixley Seme sought 85 years ago.

Ladies and gentlemen;

We appreciate the hard work and the creative thinking that has gone into this project. We know too that land reform is a complex process, involving many difficult issues. In the three years that it has taken to get this far only a few projects have reached completion. But the groundwork has been laid for many other projects throughout the country. It was most encouraging to learn from Minister Hanekom recently that there are now over 300 such projects underway that will benefit over 60 000 households, in other words close on half a million people.

You are now the owners of this land as a result of the government's land reform project have a great responsibility on their shoulders. Without exaggeration we can say that the future of the programme depends on their success or failure as farmers.

Agriculture is a vital sector of our economy. South Africa is one of only six countries in the world which exports food on a substantial basis. To keep this up and improve the contribution which agriculture is already making to our economic growth, farmers will need to grasp the opportunities of our entrance into a competitive world market-place. Even more important, we should provide affordable food to our people.

If managed well the Lephatsoana Trust can develop this farm to become the food basket of Daggakraal and an integral part of the region's agriculture.

We are encouraged by the record so far. We are impressed by the determination of the Trust to build on its early success by promoting the development of health, educational and other facilities. In such ways, land can become an engine of development.

This will create jobs and stimulate further economic activity, as it has already started to do. As well as helping uplift the people this will contribute to stability and security. A vital part of our National Crime Prevention Strategy is the improvement of living conditions. In that way, as well as others, land reform projects benefit not only those directly affected, but the whole farming community; indeed the whole country.

Already the project is helping to undo the effects of generations of division. Practical initiatives are beginning to break down barriers as business partnerships are formed across the racial divide. The most effective way to contribute to the building of our new nation is to engage with each other in our daily activities as we produce and buy and sell what our people need.

With this project completed after three years of hard work, we should acknowledge the contribution of many people, from central government and the province, as well as the members of the Trust and their committee. By working together and ensuring that all important decisions were made in a democratic way, you have safeguarded the project and laid the basis for success. Support from the private sector and foreign donors has also been important to the success of this partnership.

I would like to congratulate each and every person who was involved in the establishment and development of the farm. You have brought hope to the people of Daggakraal, and you have set a shining example of what can be achieved in a democratic South Africa. Thank you for your commitment to the community; for your hard work and perseverance in making your dream become a reality.

Whether we are speaking of this project; or of the national land reform programme; or of our country as a whole, we can truly say: The foundation for a better life has been laid! Let us work together to build the future of our dreams!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website