DA calls on SAHRC to probe government human rights violations for denying land ownership for millions of rural South African

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
11 Nov 2022 in News

Please find attached photos here, here and here.

Today I led a delegation of the DA in a meeting with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) where we lodged a complaint and requested an investigation into what can only be described as a largescale human rights violation by the South African national government against poor, rural South Africans. Government’s failure to enact meaningful land reform in the so-called trust areas is a violation of South African citizens’ constitutionally-enshrined rights to dignity, equality and property ownership.

At the heart of this complaint lies government’s failure to implement Section 25 (6) of the Constitution which explicitly states that “A Person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure that is legally secure or to comparable redress.”

The very same section of the Constitution that is constantly scapegoated by the ANC for the lack of land justice not only enables but in fact obliges government to provide security of tenure and/or title ownership to poor, rural South Africans.

The South African government has clearly failed to “respect, protect and observe” the property rights of communal land communities who were robbed of their dignity as a result of past discriminatory laws and practices. This also constitutes a violation of the right to equality, as rural citizens living on trust land are not treated the same as citizens elsewhere who do enjoy the right to property ownership and security of tenure.

These violations fall squarely within the investigative mandate of the SAHRC.

But this dereliction by government is made even worse by new information around land ownership that was uncovered recently by the DA through a series of Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) requests. It has emerged that vast tracts of trust land – around 10.5 million hectares in the country’s fertile eastern provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga – are still owned by Apartheid government entities such as the Minister of Native Affairs, the South African Bantu Trust and the Government of the Transkei.

So not only is the ANC government unwilling to grant these citizens property rights and security of tenure, they also have to suffer the indignity of living on land that is effectively still owned by the likes of Hendrik Verwoerd and other National Party Ministers of Native Affairs. It is unthinkable that, almost thirty years into our democracy, millions of desperately poor South Africans are still regarded by their government as second-class citizens – “tribes of natives” who don’t have the right to own their own land.

It is shameful that our country’s most fertile land is home to some of our very poorest citizens, and this has everything to do with property ownership and security of tenure. Equally shameful is the fact that in 2022 there is still no Act of Parliament that fulfills Section 25 (6) of the Constitution.

The DA calls on the SAHRC to investigate this violation of the constitutional rights of citizens to equality (Section 9), dignity (Section 10) and property rights (Section 25), and to then compel government to rectify this by enabling Section 25 (6) of the Constitution through an Act of Parliament, instead of merely scapegoating it for three decades of their own failure.