The signing into law the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill and the Property Valuation Bill by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa raises a glimmer of hope that the ANC government is committed to addressing the needs of its majority black citizenry. The legislation re-opens the restitution claims process which closed at the end of 1998 and saw 80,000 land restitution claims lodged. Millions of South Africans were dispossessed of their land as a result of past discrimination. As the law is enforced, the concerns raised by the Economic Freedom Fighters that it divides South Africans into ethnic groups; distorts the history of land dispossession; is expensive to enforce and that it has failed before, should be addressed.
There is a loud cry in the rainbow nation – as in other African countries - to address the rising inequality and interrogate ownership of their economies. The socio-economic benefits of independence are not trickling down to the electorate in most African countries. This is because their economies are foreign owned and are run with African 'managers' (or a clique of privileged African elites) who widen the rich -poor gap.
The law is a pointer to Africa to address deep seated grievances resulting from the colonial legacy such as resource distribution and boundaries. It is also a call for building understanding amongst Africans and settlers. It is a pragmatic growth strategy that aims to realise the country's full economic potential while helping to bring the black majority into the economic mainstream. This should be done systematically and soberly.