Land first, says incoming Minister Mzwanele Nyhontso

Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development and PAC leader Mzwanele Nyhontso. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development and PAC leader Mzwanele Nyhontso. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 3, 2024


In a country where land ownership remains largely in the hands of minority groups, newly appointed Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development and PAC leader Mzwanele Nyhontso has identified the land reform programme and ensuring access to land as his key priorities when he assumes his role.

Speaking during an interview with the Cape Times on Tuesday, he said: “The people are landless. The people are homeless. People do not have jobs.

All their problems originate from the original sin of whites taking our land violently.”

The most recent Land Audit Report, commissioned by the Rural Development and Land Reform Department in 2018, showed that whites owned the majority of land at 72%, followed by coloured people at 15%, Indians at 5% and Africans at 4%.

“We must prioritise the settlement of the land claims. I understand that the Land Claims Commission must be sitting with thousands in backlogs of land claims waiting to be finalised,” he said.

Nyhontso, who will be sworn in on Wednesday with all other newly appointed ministers and deputies, said he will have a sense of the state of land claims when he is briefed by the department.

“We have to process the claims and make sure that they are paid,” he said.

“We must address this elephant in the room: landless(ness). The original sin of the whites was to take our land violently. We want it back through an act of Parliament. I am in the government that has the responsibility to make it a point that the land is returned.”

His other priority was rural development.

“We must look at the rural areas and come up with programmes to develop those areas so that there is an end to people from the Eastern Cape coming to the Western Cape only to be called migrants. We must bring development in areas where the people actually live,” he said.

“Nobody took this (development in rural areas) seriously. I want to make it a point that we do it in the true sense of the word,” he said.

Nyhontso said his appointment to the Cabinet came as a complete shock to him and his party.

“I did not expect to be appointed to the Cabinet. We as the PAC approached the GNU with a patriotic mind.

“We said we understand that there is no outright winner. The government has to be formed and we must not run away from that reality of forming a government where different parties have to meet and create or make a government.

“When we met with the ANC, we did not make any demands. We said the country must move forward and that the government must be formed so that delivery of services must be taken to the people,” Nyhontso said.

In the first 1994 democratic elections, the PAC’s election slogan was: “Land First, All Shall follow: Vote PAC”.

“The ministry talks to the core of what the PAC stands and advocates for.

Our slogan on land still remains. This time around we said the land is our legacy,” he said in reference to their 2024 manifesto theme coined: “Our Land, Our Legacy”.

PAC secretary-general Apa Pooe said having been appointed to the Ministry of Land and Rural Development, they would fulfil their commitment to the election manifesto theme, “Our land, Our Legacy”.

“We welcome the appointment and will work with the Cabinet, led by the President, to advance the revolutionary agenda of the liberation Struggle,” Pooe said.

He added they would hit the ground running in the Ministry of Land and Rural Development, led by Nyhontso.

“Within the Cabinet collective, we will advance revolutionary liberation Struggle objectives.”

Pooe said the PAC was committed to developing the rural economy.

“Under our leadership, we will advance the allocation of resources to enhance infrastructure and support for rural development. Investments will reflect our country’s demographics, serving the rural majority, particularly African communities,” he said.

AgriSA has welcomed the appointment of Nyhontso and DA leader John Steenhuisen as Minister of Agriculture.

“These appointments come at a critical juncture, and we are confident that under these ministers’ leadership, the agricultural sector will thrive and continue to be a cornerstone of the national economy,” AgriSA CEO Johann Kotzé said.

Kotzé said AgriSA was committed to playing its role in supporting the new GNU by actively engaging with all stakeholders to foster a cohesive and collaborative approach.

Cape Times