CAPE TOWN, Land reform is a priority for South Africa and is an issue which must be addressed immediately, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is time to usher in a new era of agricultural revolution in rural areas, the President said when he addressed the annual official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders, the upper chamber of the South African Parliament here Tuesday.

He said the country’s traditional leaders needed to play a prominent and influential role in the growth of the economy, the creation of employment and the transformation of society.

During the State of the Nation Address earlier this month, we outlined some of the key priorities of Government for the year. One of these is land reform. This issue is critical, emotive and very sensitive. Land dispossession is a defining feature of colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, he added.

Stating that the hunger for land among black South Africans is genuine and pressing, he added: The time has arrived that we act decisively to resolve this matter. We must repair the damage inflicted upon our people. As part of the measures to accelerate land redistribution, the 54th National Conference of the ANC (African National Congress) resolved that where appropriate and justifiable, land will be expropriated without compensation.

The programme of land reform must have clear targets and timeframes, be guided by sound legal and economic principles, and must contribute to the country’s overall job creation and investment objectives.”

Meanwhile, that government is committed to working closely with traditional leaders in the area of agriculture, said Ramaphosa. By providing more land to more producers for cultivation, and by providing the necessary support, the government would be laying the foundation for an agricultural revolution, he added.

We are determined to work with traditional leaders to significantly expand agriculture not only to ensure food security, but also to create jobs on a significant scale and increase the value of our exports. We also want to build partnerships with traditional leaders to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment, he said.

President Ramaphosa said the government also needed to create opportunities for young people in rural areas, whether through education, internships or employment. Government will not succeed in developing rural areas if skilled young people migrate to big cities, he added.

Among other things, this means that we need to make agriculture an attractive and viable career for young people,” he said.