ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. Photo: Sam Clark

Johannesburg - The ANC cannot be a liberation movement if it does not tackle the issue of land reform, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

“The land question is at the centre of the struggle. If we raise it in the ANC some are irritated. It can't be a liberation movement that refuses to deal with the land question,” he said.

Mantashe, who is also the chairperson of the South African Communist Party, was speaking at a Young Communist League meeting at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

He said land could not just be claimed without compensation, as unskilled workers would not be able to successfully care for their land.

“When the people were dispossessed, they were also de-skilled. Land distribution must go together with a support mechanism for emerging farmers.”

He said historians needed to focus on the indigenous people of South Africa.

“The first war in the country (with colonialists) left what they call the 'Khoisan Genocide',” he said.

“This left the Khoi and San believing they are extinct, and they say now that they are the 'coloured' people. They are the first indigenous people in Africa... they are a part of the African identity.”

He said subsequent wars forced the Basuto nation into the mountains as a means of defence.

“We need to see history through the eyes of the lion. We cannot allow hunters to write the history of lions.”

He was talking in reference to the claim made by Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder in Parliament on Wednesday.

Mulder suggested that black “Bantu-speaking” people had no historical claim to 40 percent of the country. “Africans in particular never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa,” Mulder claimed during debate in the National Assembly on last week's State of the Nation address.

Mantashe said the ANC and SACP were both fighting different sides of the same “monster”.

“We are fighting the monster at the same time. The ANC is fighting against racial exploitation and the SACP against economic exploitation.”

He said both parties needed to clear themselves of members with “negative tendencies”.

“It is like taking a mouse to a cheese factory, it will eat itself to death. We need to fight these tendencies wherever they are... things like corruption and the use of money to balance forces in conferences, or singing songs that are decisive.

“The ANC needs to reinforce that the only thing that is yours is your salary,” he said. - Sapa