Cape Town – Land will be returned to the people, President Jacob Zuma asserted on Thursday, during his reply to the State of the Nation Address debate.
Replying to criticism from political parties on land expropriation and the slow pace of land reform, Zuma told MPs that his government had the interests of the people at heart.
“And will do all in its power to ensure that land is returned to the people,” he said in the National Assembly.
Deviating from his prepared speech, Zuma said it was amazing to see certain parties pretending to side with ordinary citizens, when he knew they were on the side of those who had stolen the land.
The land issue needed to be tackled, otherwise it would “explode one day”.
“We would be saying there are people who must live without land, when there is land in this country.”
It would be done within the parameters of the law, he said.
Calls for land restitution had nothing to do with hatred of whites, Zuma said. He was responding to FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, who had accused Zuma of this during his SONA reply.
“It does not display hatred. Responsible leadership must find a way to avoid that situation, so I don’t think it helps to jump into phrases that if somebody talks about land hunger, then he is hating the whites. How else would you describe those who own the land? How do you describe them, if you don’t say what happened?” Zuma asked.
It was a fact that some people did not buy the land they now owned, but they were not focusing on that now. All that was needed now was a formula to deal with the problem, he said.
“Affirmative action and black economic empowerment do not demonstrate hatred to white people. I think, honourable member, it will be wise to disabuse yourself from the tendency that when we talk about land, and we talk about those who own land, you think it is because of hatred. It’s not true.”
Zuma referred to his recent visit to the Nyanga police station in Cape Town. It was frustrating for police officers to put criminals away, only for the courts to release them, he said.
He said he would discuss this with the justice cluster. He bemoaned the fact that, in some cases, criminals interfered with witnesses and police investigations. They trampled on rights of South Africans, Zuma said.
“You cannot allow a situation where justice and commission of crime live side by side.”