17 FEBRUARY 1998

Chairperson, we would like to start off by saying that in its quest to provide the moral basis for the recreation of our nation, the Church wants to accept that it was one of the beneficiaries of this national injustice since it is also a land owner. However it should be noted that the Church owns only more or less 7% of the bigger slice of land.

It further important to emphasise that it is not all the land that the Church owns that was acquired through dubious means, even though the Church is prepared to accept that it also benefited from injustices of the past. We also want to state categorically that the Land Acts, both 1913 and 1936 Acts were not the only tools used to dispossess African people of their source of livelihood.

A number of apartheid policies supported by legislation pushed millions of black South Africans into overcrowded and impoverished reserves, homelands and townships. It further correct as Prof. Mofokeng puts it in his article in the book entitled: An African Challenge to the Church in the 21st Century; that a further, "dispossession of African land was legitimized and brutalised in CODESA agreements".

In other words, the compromises which came out with a miracle, made at the World Trade Centre maintained dispossession of African people and made it difficult for them to reclaim their land through blanket approach on protection of land owners. These are some of many reasons why land ownership in South Africa has continued to be one of the many sources of conflict and this problem is still going to be with us for a number of years to come.

We need therefore, chairperson to unequivocally admit and recognise the fact that historical dispossession of African people's land was an economically and socially disabling process which resulted in impoverishment and deprivation and thus amounted to a gross violation of basic human rights of many communities. The RDP Policy Document therefore rightfully argues in its historical rationale that :

"A National Land Reform Programme is the central and driving force of the programme of rural development. It aims at effectively addressing the injustices of forced removals and the historical denial of access to land."

This programme should however be community driven and it must aim to supply both residential and arable land to the poorest section of rural population and the aspiring farmers if it is to make a necessary effect and impact in the lives of millions of previously dispossessed of South Africans.

We should be quick however to admit that the government of the day has taken very big strides in developing a land policy which attempts to deal with the history of forced removals, dispossession, unfair and racially skewed distribution of land. A number of interesting and stimulating arguments have been held about Restitution, Redistribution and Tenure Security Reform, both in this Parliament and in many seminars and workshops held country-wide to make many of us here informed critics and supporters of the land Reform Programme.

The Portfolio Committee must also realise that, there has never been a time when we as the Church are expected to know more about public policies than now. It will be dismal failure on our side in our discipleship and witness if we can not interrogate the public (land) policy against its impact on the goal not only to address the imbalances of the past, but also to eradicate poverty.

It is in that spirit that the post apartheid land policy which was to avail land to the landless, farm-dwellers, tenants and women through Restitution, Redistribution and Tenure Security Reform, for peace, stability and freedom, had to meaningfully challenge the present and fundamental reality of poverty and landlessness.

An open dialogue therefore with policy makers helps us not only to gain a realistic understanding of the dynamics involved in this area of the government's operation, but it also equips and positions us to better lobby for or work with the poor and the landless South Africans using effective and efficient strategies to challenge the following fundamental questions:

Without watering down the work done in this fragile component of land reform, the Church together with other concerned bodies in this area, wants to express its utter disappointment about the very slow pace of this crucial element in land reform. It is also equally important not to blame everything on the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights and its lengthy processes of resolving existing land problems but, also on the Constitution, Legislation and Budgetary constraints which articulate serious impediments for this process to unfold rapidly.

Chairperson, it was in this very Parliament and in front of the same Committee in 1995 that the SACC made it clear that the Property Clause should either not be included in the Constitution or not be allowed to prevent this process of restorative justice from unfolding. It should further be noted that for all three elements of land reform, the "willing buyer - willing seller clause" does not work in South Africa in as much as we would like to be convinced that it has worked somewhere else in the world.

The SACC would further like to make it clear that despondency and frustration that many communities are facing in their struggles to return to their ancestral land have led to invasions in some cases and loss of faith in the government on the other. Moreover many of those communities that have returned to their land have not laid their hands on their Tittle Deeds up until today. To rub more salt on the wound, the fact that more or less 18000 claims for land have been made and only 4 have been finalised with less than 20 referred to the Land Claims Court, leaves much to be desired.

We thus urge the government to speed up this process in as much as we welcome the government's extension of the period of making claims till December 1998, even though that in its self is not sufficient because many communities are still not even aware that there is such a thing as reclaiming their land. We further call on government to revisit the Land Restitution Act of 1994 and amend it for the benefit the previously forcefully removed communities and the return of Tittle Deeds to communities like Goedgevonden and the Barolong ba Matlwang.

Tenure Security Reform
Chairperson, lack of political will is not only noticed in this component of land reform but it is disappointing that even after the Land Affairs Ministry had introduced a moratorium on evictions, introduced the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, which was neither effective nor successful, the evictions from farms never stopped. We however later congratulated the ministry for introducing the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 because, even though it is not a limitless saviour of the landless people, especially the farm-dwellers and tenants, it however does provide reasonable protection for many victims and potential victims of evictions.

It is also very important chairperson to be mindful of the fact that, as we are gathered here, more than 56 families in the Mpumalanga Province in a place known as Daggakraal, are out in the cold in the middle of nowhere. Many other families in Kwa-Zulu Natal e.g. 5 families in the Vryheid district and many more we may not be aware of in many other Provinces, are going through the same difficulties and in most cases the government has not intervened on their behalf and the perpetrators thus got away with these evil acts.

Peoples frustration is now even seen to have translated itself into anger that results in attack of certain farmers and sometimes farmers themselves vent their anger on their tenants or workers through evictions and even brutal treatment. While there may be no link between the two, the following facts however indicate that there is something wrong somewhere.

While more than a 100 farmers were killed in 1996, about 40-50 were killed in 1997 with more than 20 of such statistics happening in one week towards the end of the same year. On the other hand, during the beginning not very long that a young black boy was shot dead by one farmer in the Northern Province for playing roughly with another young white boy. That farmer got arrested and was granted R 1 000 bail.

It should be noted with due respect chairperson that the above mentioned developments in the land sector are not at all in the interest of the country and its economy. We must therefore avoid a situation where we may be faced with Zimbabwean type of land reform. It is therefore imperative that the state intervenes decisively in this process in order to influence not only the economic relations so as to provide an entry point for the vast majority of the citizens shut out from enjoying the country's benefits as a result of specific historical and contemporary factors, but also for equitable and just distribution of land.

Dr Peter Mayende, the Provincial Land Claims Commissioner rightfully argues that :
"As a safeguard against abuse and corruption, both the Constitutional Provision and the Act would have to state categorically that the beneficiaries of Redistribution would only be the landless."

It is however saddening that there is no clear proof and statistics of people who have succeeded to access either the state land, private land and or expropriated land due to government's intervention. Therefore, the unclear statistics in this area makes it difficult for one to measure successes or failures of this element of land reform programme.

But again the issue of "willing buyer - willing seller" prevents many people from accessing land because most of the owners of land who happen to be white are not prepared to exchange land ownership with Africans.

We therefore urge the present government to ensure that at least the thirty percent ( 30% ) of land which is said to be owned by the state is distributed equitably to the landless communities. It is also very critical that the government ensure that the good intentions of the South African Land Policy as contained in the White Paper are effectively and efficiently implemented for the benefit of the landless communities.

It would be a very serious oversight to ignore the issue of land and environment as it is critical that the National Policy attends closely to people's environmental needs in their new relationship with land. Many communities return to their land or use their land without being environmentally conscious. They either destroy their environment by bringing more live stock than their land can accommodate or they are destroyed themselves when they invade their land e.g. people of Schmidtsdrift, Lohatlha, Majeng (Northern Cape) and the community of Maleoskop in Mpumalanga Province where land mines are said to be posing serious danger for the communities which still have a long way to go before understanding issues of environment if the Government does not help in making them understand.

We therefore call on the government to promote environmental consciousness within the previously evicted communities who have returned or are returning to their land and or the landless who happen to acquire land through redistribution in a rigorous manner. Finally, in the spirit of reconciliation and peace, all the South Africans need to make it their responsibility to ensure that the land question in this country is resolved amicably without ignoring and shunning issues of Economic Justice and Environment.

Church Land - A Current Challenge For The Churches
For many people the land on which they are living represents more than a mere commodity of everyday's survival:

Often land is similar to a history book, preserving and recounting the his- and herstories of those men, women and children who shared their lives on a certain land. Family relationships and friendship frequently define a person's identification with a certain area, and ancestral places link the present with the past. Joint living, working, celebrating and worshipping together increases the feeling of belonging and home that is usually connected with given land.

During the settler's, the colonial and the apartheid era, many people have been uprooted and were forcibly removed from their land that used to provide home, shelter, the feeling of belonging and the possibility to survive on the yield of the land. By losing their land in the course of forced removals, people lost security and often parts of their identity, and they were usually left impoverished and destitute.

The Green Paper on Land Reform assumes that land "does not only form the basis of our wealth, but also our security, pride and history. Land, its ownership and use, has always played an important role in shaping the political, economic and social processes in the country. Past land policies were a major cause of insecurity, landlessness, homelessness and poverty in South Africa. They also resulted in inefficient urban and rural land use patterns and a fragmented system of land administration. This has severely restricted effective resource utilisation and development."

In the same line, the RDP linked the issue of poverty with the land policy during the apartheid era, stating: "Land is the most basic need for rural dwellers. Apartheid policies pushed millions of black South African into overcrowded and impoverished reserves, homelands and townships."

With 204 references to the poor, impoverished, poorest or poverty in general, the issue of poverty is of specific relevance within the Bible. Provisions are made to ensure the survival and the meeting of the everyday's needs of the poor [cf. e.g. Ex 23:11 or Lev 23:22], and the often highly disputed concept of the Year of Jubilee in Lev 25 demands a comprehensive restitution process every 50th year.

The Year of Jubilee and its alleviation of economic imbalances is supposed to be announced on the Day of Atonement, when the sin and the guilts of individuals and communities are addressed and removed. Thus, restitution is closely linked to the question of guilt and the striving for a greater economic justice and balance.

The Jubilee tradition as well as the creation accounts depict God as the sovereign and the ultimate owner of the land, making provisions for its restitution on a regularly basis and setting human beings as stewards to till and keep the earth and to live on it in the close relationship that the Hebrew terms "adam" (human being) and "adamah" (earth) implies.

The usage of land in biblical terms as well as the before mentioned concept of stewardship demand the awareness of responsibility for the landless, the poor and the foreign people, for widows and orphans, for disadvantaged people in general. It demands an access to land and its fruit to everybody and requires a new dispensation within the Year of Jubilee where "you shall return, everyone of you, to your property" (Lev 25:13), where the servants and the impoverished people in debts are to be released. God as the landlord demands a new dispensation.

In the South African context, the question of how to alleviate poverty is usually linked with the demand for restitution of the land. In an international seminar on "Wholeness, healing and resistance", held at the University of Utrecht in September 1991, Dr Wolfram Kistner defines restitution in a fourfold way:

1. as a terminus technicus within the political debate: "the return of expropriated land to people or communities from whom it has been taken away by the apartheid regime in terms of apartheid legislation"

2. as healing process: "the healing of the wounds of people and communities who have been uprooted from their land"
3. as a comprehensive humanisation of unhuman structures and unhuman human behaviour: "the humanisation of those people and sections in South African society who knowingly or unknowingly have contributed to the uprootal of people from their land"
4. the possibility of restitution for the land itself and "the healing of the wounds of the land and the preservation of the plants and the animals that live on the land."

Concluding his lecture, Kistner formulates the challenges for the churches as follows:
"The land issue challenges the churches in South Africa not only to become involved in efforts to ensure a more just distribution of the land including also efforts to make church owned land in the best possible way for the benefit of the people.This issue also challenges the churches to recover neglected dimensions of the Christian faith and to become active in healing the wounds of people people and communities affected by the uprootal from the land as well as in healing the wounds of the land itself in order to restore its fruitfulness and to protect its beauty."

Especially during the last decade, a number of attempts have been made to address the question of restitution or of a more effective, inclusive and community-driven and -owned utilization of church land. The most well-known obligations referring to church land were made by the churches in 1984 and 1990:
In 1984, a delegation from the SACBC and the SACC visited a variety of countries overseas to inform them about the forced removals at that time. In their brochure "Relocations: The Churches' Report on forced removals", the churches "acknowledge[d] and confess[ed their] own failure to till the land and care adequately for the people in the past." As a result, the churches concluded:

"We consequently commit ourselves to restoring the land owned by the churches to its original fruitfulness, and to make it available for the settlement of people who have been dispossessed."

Six years later, at the Rustenburg National Conference of Church Leaders, the participants of the meeting declared the close linkage between confession, forgiveness and restitution, stating:

"Confession and forgiveness necessarily require restitution. Without it, a confession of guilt is incomplete. As a first step towards restitution, the church must examine its land ownership and work for the return of all land expropriated from relocated communities to its original owners."

Obligations made quite often turn into oblivion before being addressed by deeds. Being reminded of and reminding each other of these obligations referring to land could be the first step on the long road towards a new dispensation and a more inclusive utilization of church owned land.

In November 1997, a joint conference of the SACC and the National Land Committee (NLC) took place. The conference was designed as a forum of dialogue and exchange between church leaders, decision making bodies on church land, NGOs and community representatives from communities either having been evicted from church land or still staying on church land with an insecure status. Objectives of the conference were:

1) to investigate the responsible utilization of church land
2) to deal with land redistribution, restitution and tenure security on church lands as aspects to be considered in the alleviation of poverty
3) to assist churches in formulating a common policy on church land.

In their proposed policy document, which was also introduced to and received by the Church Leaders' Forum by the end of November 1997, the delegates declare inter alia:
1. We celebrate the land as :
a) a source of our sustenance,
b) the place of our identity, a place of our birth, life and death
c) the place where we live our individual and communal history,
d) the place where we practice and transmit the heritage and values given to us by our ancestors.

2. Recognizing the current use of church land and given
a) the history of dispossession in our country,
b) the acquisition of the land by church missions,
c) the continued landlessness and poverty of the majority of our people,
d) the acts of subjugation which led to the loss of land and identity of the indigenous people,

3. we declare our belief that :
a) the earth was created by God, and that the land and its wealth belongs to God,
b) our land is a gracious gift to us from God,
c) succeeding generations have the responsibility to hold this land for the benefit of all people, irrespective of gender, class, religion, or denomination,
d) all people are given land on which to live and work and to maintain and protect the land with responsible stewardship (Gen 2:15),
e) the land has to be held in trust for future generations.

The conference then called for a year of Jubilee "when the gospel is practised as good news to the poor. This calls for:
a) a deep public confession and repentance by the church,
b) the restoration of land held by the church to the dispossessed and landless,
c) the provision of land for people to live and produce and to re-affirm their identity,
d) the responsible and sustainable use of the land by those who live on it."

Developing principles to govern the utilization of church land, the delegates declare their belief that "the effective utilization of church land is an instrument to redress injustice and poverty in South Africa, especially those resulting from the past, thus leading to reconciliation and development." The conference then focussed on a number of areas ranging from dealing with poverty and landlessness to reconciliation and healing, resolving in particular:
a) "The church needs to address historic disadvantages and injustices by pro-actively making land available,
b) engaging in follow-up support for the poor and landless including the present residents on church land,
c) providing appropriate support to evicted people and farm workers,
d) assisting original owners in endeavours to return to the land and
e) supporting especially those marginalised groups like women, youth and HIV/AIDS victims.
f) The restitution of land rights should receive particular emphasis, with the church positively responding by releasing land, in particular leased land and under-utilised land.
g) The churches should consider making their land available for free, or, in relevant cases, consider the possibility of investing any compensation received in development on the land.
h) The churches' overall response to the restitution process should be a more affirmative one.
i) Christians should ensure that the use of land is just. In particular, no unilateral speculation with church land should be allowed.
j) Decision making related to church land should at all times be a process that includes those who live on the land."

Trying to work out strategies for the churches' efficient participation in development, the conference stated:
"The church is called to be actively involved in the development of its land by:
a) forming a real partnership in development between the church hierarchy and the community, based on mutual trust,
b) improving a liaison between the church, the community, the government, business and NGOs to facilitate development of land,
c) encouraging and supporting local development initiatives,
d) being responsible for the productive planning and use of its land, with due consideration for the ecology and infrastructural development,
e) contributing towards capacity-building of the communities."

In terms of reconciliation and healing, the delegates reiterated that the "church has a moral and theological responsibility to enable reconciliation and healing by
1) confessing its involvement in land dispossession,
2) engaging in uncovering the history of acquisition of land,
3) encouraging the telling of stories of dispossession by dispossessed communities."

After having established the respective role players in the process of effective utilization of church land and after having allocated the respective tasks (para 6), the delegates explored the prevailing constraints to an effective utilization of church lands and strategies/steps how to overcome them. Finally, the delegates committed themselves to a pro-active implementation of the recommendations listed above.

The following years will show whether the church will be able to, as Dr Peter Mayende put it, "discard its tendency towards self-centredness and be more supportive of the land reform process".

Presented by Rev. Malcolm Damon in the South African Parliament on the 17th February 1998 at 12H30 in Cape Town.

Prepared by Zakes Nkosi and Drea Froechtling in Johannesburg
SACC, Covenant and Land Programme National Co-ordination

For more details please contact Zakes and Drea in Johannesburg

62 Marshall Street
P. O. Box 4921
Johannesburg 2001