Government needs to look at land redistribution urgently - Motlanthe
25 July 2017
Cape Town – The government must address equitable access to land urgently, said former president Kgalema Motlanthe on Tuesday.
Motlanthe, in his characteristically stately manner, gave an overview of the High Level Panel on the assessment of key legislation and acceleration of fundamental change, which he heads, at the Public Interest Law Gathering at the University of the Western Cape.
At the start of his speech, he apologised to the audience that he could not go into too much detail, as he did not want to pre-empt the panel's report.
He said South Africa's inequality was due to historical factors, more recently compounded by global, "but also homegrown problems", such as the high cost of doing business and policy uncertainty.
The scarcity of skills was also a problem, as skilled people were employed at a high cost, leaving less pay for unskilled workers.
"South Africa needs to ensure the economy grows much more quickly for a sustained period," he said.
"We need to ensure the economy becomes more, not less, labour intensive."
He was also concerned about access to healthcare. He said the majority of South Africans did not have health insurance. Less than 50% of specialists worked in the public sector, while it served 80% of the people.
"The focus needs to be placed on the advancement of primary healthcare."
He said during all of the panel's community meetings, the "emotive issue of land" was raised.
"This demands the utmost urgent attention of government," he said.
"It is the constitutional duty of Parliament to enact legislation to provide for the equitable access to land."
Motlanthe said traditional leadership was a "major challenge" to be addressed by legislation, as people in traditional communities expected the same as people from other communities, yet they were not always treated "consistent with constitutional tenets".
He said some traditional leaders charged the people living in their communities levies, and others organised unemployed young people into "private armies".
"So if you ask difficult questions at a meeting, the young people will come and visit you at night," he said.
Motlanthe did not address the politics of the day, bar one reference to a "captured state". He said that in a captured state, legislation dealing with mineral rights meant nothing as people would find a way to circumvent it.