A Desire to Return to the Ruins , livre ebook

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A Desire to Return to the Ruins looks at the contentious issues of land reform and restitution in post-apartheid South Africa.
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Date de parution

01 août 2022

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4

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9781990907806

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English

A Desire to Return
to The Ruins



First published by Blackbird Books, 2022
593 Zone 4
Seshego
Polokwane
0742
South Africa
www.blackbirdbooks.africa
Lucas Ledwaba © 2022
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-920703-80-6
Cover Design by Nsuku L. Sithole
Editing by Norma Young
Proofreading by Mamsidoll Media

See a complete list of Blackbird Books titles
at www.blackbirdbooks.africa






A Desire to Return
to The Ruins
Lucas Ledwaba






To the silent ones whose voices live on in this book, the ones that never lived long enough to return to the ruins…


Contents
Introduction
Chapter 1 : We are returning to the ruins
Chapter 2 : MalaMala – billion-rand land deal that divided a people
Chapter 3 : ‘Our baobabs should be left alone’
Chapter 4 : District Six – Insight into urban land claims
Chapter 5 : ‘They have been waiting centuries before'
Chapter 6 : Working the land
Chapter 7 : Mining and the new scramble for land
Chapter 8 : Land hunger hits herbalists and healers
Chapter 9 : Madimbo living in hell before judgement day arrives
Chapter 10 : Maila’s long wait to return home
Acknowledgments
Bibliography



Introduction
IN AUGUST 2019, as I was doing research for this book, I received a WhatsApp message on my phone to say that Mndeni Sikhakhane had died at the age of 89. He was one of the key litigants in a case by farm labour tenants trying to reclaim their land tenure rights. I had met him previously at his home in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, in April 2018; a silver-haired man who had lost his eyesight but not his wit and resolve to fight to the bitter end. Sadly, he never lived long enough to witness the conclusion of the protracted case in which the Constitutional Court finally ruled in their favour in August 2019. A year earlier, I had also received similar news, that Sara Tsebe, a feisty 92-year-old woman at the forefront of a lengthy struggle against mining giant Anglo-American Platinum, had breathed her last breath. Tsebe was among the 64 families who had steadfastly refused to take up Anglo American’s offer of a once-off paltry cash payment in exchange for moving from their ancestral land, Motlhotlo to Rooibokpan; a township settlement about 8 kilometres away, in the Mapela district of Mokopane, Limpopo.
Anglo eventually reached a settlement, described as a landmark agreement with the community in late 2019 Tsebe, who was buried in Rooibok, a land she never wanted to relocate to in life, didn’t live long enough to witness this deal and benefit from it.
In January 2020, Ringanyiso Simon Marimane, aged 97 years old, died at his home in Utah, Mpumalanga. I was not aware he had passed on until I visited his family in August 2020. His sons and other relatives broke the news to me on this visit. They also showed me the grave in front of the family home where he was buried.
When I met him in July 2019, he was already troubled by the ravages of old age. He walked with difficulty and his sight wasn’t at its best. Yet his memory remained sharp. He remembered things and events from a lifetime past with much clarity. Marimane was buried at his homestead where the family had settled after being forcibly ejected from their home to make way for the development of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in the 1950s.
He was a key member of the community that lodged a successful claim on the MalaMala Game Reserve. The deal was worth just under R1 billion, making it the largest in SA’s history. But it was beset with serious problems which, until Marimane’s death, continued to plague the community.
Although these elders from different parts of the country had never met, in many ways their paths were interlinked. They had all lived through the horror of the repression of Apartheid. In 1994 when legislated. Apartheid was eventually abolished, they hoped to find peace before coming to the end of their lives. Instead, they spent the next quarter of a century and more, fighting to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Although their cases had different complexities, they are common in many ways.
I met many other elders in the course of researching this book, men and women with deep, haunting looks in their eyes. Each time I sat down to write their stories, their mournful, at times angry voices, speaking of their desire to return to the land, to the ruins of their fathers and forefathers, echoed in my head, haunting reflections from a generation that lived through the era of land dispossession.
Although many years had passed and the landscape had changed significantly since they were ejected from their places of birth. They still had photographic memories of the lands where they came from. They remembered graves, rivers, streams, fences, where their homesteads once stood and where they once grazed their cattle. They had lived through the degradation of Apartheid, and were now spending their last years fighting state bureaucracy and, in some cases, infighting among their own communities. Some like Spokes Sithole, a man born a year before former president Nelson Mandela, were forced to endure lengthy durations testifying and being cross examined by ruthless lawyers before the courts.
Each time I sat down to write, I recalled the emotion in the singing of community members waiting for the land, hoping to return to the ruins. It was an emotional journey on my part, but for the people waiting and fighting to get back their land, life was one long emotionally draining experience. I had reported on some of the cases in this book in my work as a reporter. But the work on this book started in earnest around 2017. In 2018, the Mail & Guardian gave me an opportunity to contribute to a series titled 'The Meaning of Land', which eventually won a Standard Bank Sikuvile Award for Feature Writing in 2019.
Parts of some of the stories in this book were covered in that series. While I was doing research, South Africa was going into its sixth democratic election in 2019 faced with the unresolved issue of land restitution which remained, and still remains, at the centre of the country’s post-apartheid politics.
Even after spending more than R16 billion on land restitution since 1998, the ANC government found itself at the crossroads, having failed to adequately address the burning issue of restoring land rights to the dispossessed.
Calls for the restoration of land rights, from leftist political parties, NGOs, civil society groupings and land-hungry South African citizens were growing ever louder and were a central and key factor going into the 2019 election and beyond. Black opposition parties accused the ruling ANC of lacking the political will to resolve the land issue and of deliberately playing delaying tactics. Land claimants on the other hand, expressed frustration with a restitution system wrought by corruption, inefficiency, political meddling and slow-moving wheels of bureaucracy.
Some argued that the ANC, careful not to scare off investors and maintain economic stability, was deliberately playing delaying tactics so that the generation of old people who witnessed first-hand the brutal land dispossession by the old racist government should die. It was argued that with the old generation who had first-hand experience of the pain of being uprooted from their land and were the most vocal and active around the issue in the earlier years of democracy gone, calls for the return of the land would die down thus giving the ANC an easy way out of this complex issue.
But even within the ANC itself the issue was hotly debated and it appeared the party was feeling the heat, particularly after having fared badly in the 2016 local government polls. In the midst of growing criticism against his party’s impotence on the land reform issue, then ANC president Jacob Zuma increasingly used public platforms to raise the land issue.
In January 2017, during the party’s 105th anniversary celebrations in Orlando, Soweto, Zuma made one of his strongest statements on land by then Zuma said it was ‘heinous’ that the majority of citizens occupied only 13% of the land. He went a step further; warning that government would that year begin to redistribute land with greater emphasis and urgency using the controversial Expropriation of Land Act.
He repeated this hard line stance during the party’s rally in Praktiseer near the town of Burgersfort in Limpopo, shortly after the January 8 speech. In 2016, Parliament approved the Land Expropriation Bill which gives the State extended powers to expropriate land for the purposes of redistribution. At the time of writing, this bill was still being mulled through the parliamentary process.
Land reform remains a hotly debated and contested issue in South Africa as articulated even by Constitutional Court Judge Mbuyiseni Madlanga delivering judgement interdicting government from amending the Restitution of Land Rights Act in July 2016.
‘[Land reform is] A subject that – despite the democratic government’s efforts at resolution through the Restitution of Land Rights Act (Restitution Act) – continues to plague South Africa’s politico-legal landscape,’ said Madlanga in what has now become known as The Lamosa (Land Access Movement of SA) judgement.
‘To those who personally experienced the forced removals and those who – instead of inheriting the illegitimately wrestled land – inherited the pain of loss of homes or property, the dispossessions are not merely colonial and apartheid era memories. They continue to be post-apartheid realities. And it is understandable why that should be so.’
Although the land question has its roots as far back as the 1600s when the first European settlers arrived on the southern tip of Africa, the ANC governmen

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