Address by President Nelson Mandela at the commemoration of the restoration of land, Cremin

23 June 1998

Master of ceremonies;
Your Highness, King Goodwill Zwelethini;
Minister of Land Affairs and Agriculture;
Acting Premier, Inkosi Ngubane;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Members of the Cremin Community,

It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to celebrate this historic event with you. One of the government's commitments to you, will be realised today. The restoration of land to the Cremin community calls for a celebration. It is an affirmation of the unity of the nation that we are building.

South Africans have fought wars with each other over land. Bitter feuds have raged. People have died for it. In this regard, South Africa is no different from most countries in the world.

But in our country the dispossession of land was also part of the oppressive apartheid system that set us one against the other.

By making most South Africans landless in the country of our birth that system produced inequality, division and poverty. That is the legacy South Africa's first democratically elected government inherited in 1994.

The experience of all countries everywhere is that if such wrongs are not put right, then the bitterness lives on for many generations. Our land reform programme helps redress the injustices of apartheid. It fosters national reconciliation and stability. It underpins economic growth and improves household welfare and food security.

So today as we gather, united as South Africans by the return of its land to the Cremin community, we have much to celebrate.

We admire you too for seeking justice not only for yourselves, but for your continued attempts to find those Cremin landowners who have not yet been traced, and your support for the claims of the former tenants on your land.

In this project we see the true spirit of Masakhane which is helping us build a new society in which each cares for the other.

In dealing with the injustices of the past, our aim is to be able to put the past our aim is to be able to put the past behind us and start working for the future. You have created that chance for yourselves, in partnership with government.

The foundation for the upliftment of your community has been laid. The challenge now is to build on it.

The progress we are making in land reform is matched in our other efforts to address the poverty that apartheid created. Millions who could only dream of such basic amenities as clean water, housing, health-care, electricity and telephones are now receiving them. But we also know that this is only the start of an immense task that will take many years to complete.

We also know that what we have achieved so far, and any future progress, depends above all on peace. That is the most important instrument of development. KwaZulu-Natal has been well served by its leadership in their joint efforts to combat political violence.

I would take this opportunity to appeal to them all, Amakhosi and political leaders, to work together to ensure that the province does not slip back into political violence. On your shoulders, especially as the election approaches, will rest the responsibility for making sure that the forces opposed to change do not succeed in undermining the peace process in order to achieve their own aims.

Your example and leadership will be critical in bringing the people of KwaZulu-Natal to answer the call of His Majesty King Zwelethini for them to respect each other, tolerate each other's views and to join together in fighting poverty and social deprivation.

As long as we work together for peace and stability, we can be sure that we will be able to make progress towards a better life for all our people. The achievements of the Cremin community will be emulated by many more communities, in KwaZulu-Natal and across our land.

The foundation for a better life has been laid. And the building has begun!

We knew land reform would not be an easy task or quickly achieved. In other countries it has taken decades, even centuries, and it is still not complete. But we can take pride in the progress we are making.

Today we celebrate not only with the Cremin community whose dream is coming true, but also with about almost a quarter of a million people to whom about 400,000 hectares have already been restored or redistributed. We rejoice in the fact that over 23 000 claims have been made to the Commission for restitution of rights - This shows that our people recognise that this is a path that leads to justice.

We take great pride in the fact that land reform is creating stability and opportunities. For some, it simply means a place to live, securely without threat of removal or eviction. For others it is creating opportunity for the poor to provide for themselves, their families and their communities and to contribute to the wealth of the country as a whole, through productive agricultural enterprises.

Just the other day I received some very important visitors at my offices in the Tuynhuys in Cape Town. It was a group of farmworkers of the Western Cape who with government support bought land to build houses. They came to see me in the Tuynhuys with a gift - a bottle of wine they called Freedom Road. They had grown this wine with their own hands on their own land. They bottled this wine with their own hands, and the proceeds from the sale of this wine internationally and locally will contribute towards the houses they are going to build on their land.

Such achievements inspire one and fill one with hope for the future of our beautiful country.

In the same way, you, the people of Cremin inspire us and fill us all with hope for our country.

You have triumphed over forcible removal twenty years ago. You never lost your vision of justice, and as the dawn of democracy was about to break you took up your fight to reclaim your land through the Mayibuye i-Cremin Committee.

Today you are here, as a result of your persistence, your patience, and your discipline in working with the government and using the law. Our policy is based on the principle that in addressing an old injustice we must not create a new one. Lasting solutions depend on the participation of many role players. The Cremin project is true to this principle.

And so we must say to everyone who has made this happen: Congratulations!

Congratulations to the Cremin Community and the previous landowner for the spirit of reconciliation that guided you during the negotiations. You are an example to all South Africans of how we can put aside pain and suffering, advantage and disadvantage and find the best solutions for each other and the country as a whole.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website