President Cyril Ramaphosa is calling for all evictions of people occupying government land to stop immediately, and for the public entities involved to put the people’s interests first.
It’s a move criticised by a political analyst as sending a “mixed message” that government approves of illegal land invasions and a green light for new occupations.
The recent government lekgotla directed the government to release publicly owned land, including that under the local authorities, to people in terms of the land expropriation without compensation policy.
“Those pieces of land must be released to our people so they can use them,” Ramaphosa said.
He said he was opposed to all forms of eviction, due to his personal experience when his family was forcibly removed from Sophiatown for the creation of the white residential area of Triomf in Johannesburg in 1962.
“The mass removal just happened … so we are against it, those wounds remain deep in our members today. It’s totally against what we should be standing for.”
Answering questions in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa said state entities, either local or provincial government, must first take into account the interests of the people, even if there was a need to take steps in relation to land.
“The lives and interests of our people count much more than the amount of money they can make in selling pieces of land.
“My view is that those who move to sell the land over the heads of our people must stop. We must find ways to deal with this.
“I am totally opposed to the mass movement of people from areas, particularly if they have lived there forever.”
The president stressed that government’s job was to protect people and advocate for their interests.
Analyst Ralph Mathekga said Ramaphosa was sending the message that land invasions were in the interests of the people.
“This amounts to sending a mixed message, as the same ANC government is saying it is opposed to illegal occupations. It encourages more land invasions.”
The government has said it would identify fallow public and private land for expropriation.
The land situation must be assessed so the government could redistribute in accordance with the constitution and the conventions of land expropriation, which have yet to be established.