File picture: Leon Lestrade

Cape Town - The African National Congress government is withholding the transfer of 1.4 million hectares of land to its rightful owners, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

The DA was gravely concerned by the ANC-led government’s delay in ensuring that the land restitution process was resolved as a matter of urgency, DA spokeswoman Annette Steyn said.

"While thousands of land claims have not been settled, the ANC government is withholding the transfer of 1.4 million hectares of land worth R8.6 billion to its rightful owners," she said.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question by the DA it came to light that since 1996 the ANC had spent R21 billion acquiring 3.4 million hectares of land. However, only two million hectares had been transferred, meaning that only 59% of land had been transferred to people while 41% had yet to be transferred.

"The delay in the land restitution process is a clear indication the ANC-led government is not serious about ensuring that our people get the land. Land restitution is merely thrown around by the ANC to play with people’s emotions in a desperate bid to gain votes. They are not really serious about transformation," Steyn said.

The dispossession of land left a painful scar in the lives of many South Africans and the delay by the current ANC government of the land restitution process was now perpetuating that very painful experience.

"The ANC does not have any political will to hand over the land to landless South Africans. They simply use the land issue as a carrot to dangle in the face of the poor and landless when they campaign for votes; meanwhile they distribute that land among themselves and the Guptas," she said.

"The DA remains committed to seeing the land being returned to its rightful owners. Land is not merely just a commodity. It is a justice issue. Land restitution delayed is justice denied," Steyn said.