Lekota slams Zuma land reform pledge

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SA COPELEKOT INLSA IRKED: Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: Michael Walker

BALDWIN NDABA

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THE LATEST land reform plan of the ANC to accommodate the claims of people who were dispossessed long before 1913 will land the country in a mess, says Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

He spoke out yesterday in reaction to the ANC’s announcement that it wanted to reopen the date for claims and provide for an exception to the 1913 cut-off date to accommodate historical landmarks, heritage sites and descendants of the Khoi and San who lost their land long before 1913.

ANC president Jacob Zuma made the announcement during the party’s anniversary celebrations in Durban at the weekend, and promised that amendments to the laws would be made this year.

Lekota and his team were clearly irked by the ANC’s decision.

While Lekota did not argue yesterday for the retention of the property rights agreed to during the Codesa talks, he insinuated that any changes to land reform provisions could result in chaos.

He told a conference yesterday that the ANC’s announcement fell short of telling the nation of whether or not the party would change the constitution, saying it had failed to explain by what mechanism it would deal with the matter.

“Will they follow the Zimbabwean route?” he asked.

“There are millions of hectares of land which are not used by the state. These millions of hectares of land were acquired after the restitution process and given to individuals who never worked on it.

“Some of these individuals sold back the land to the previous owners and the state.”

Lekota said some of the people who had benefited from the restitution process did not have skills in farming. They had led to the country importing chicken from Brazil at a high cost to the economy.

“We had to pay for the labour, transportation and marketing of the chicken. People were given the land, but a whole lot of them remained unemployed.

“How are you (ANC) going to deal with the constitutional property rights agreed to at Codesa?” Lekota asked.

He said the government should instead identify people who could work the land or undergo massive training to work on these “millions of hectares” accumulated after the restitution process.

Failure to do that would “permanently reduce productivity”, he said.

“Our constitution is not a stumbling block to bring changes. There are huge amounts of land just sitting there. It is sitting there because the owners can’t work on it,” he said.

During the same conference, Lekota announced that his party and other minority parties in parliament would unveil their strategy of contesting the elections in 2014.

He said their strategy would be finalised by next Friday.

Lekota appeared hopeful that the Johannesburg High Court would rule in his favour on February 1 after another Cope faction, led by former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, challenged his leadership.


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