Ladies and gentlemen
It is brings me great joy to be here today to celebrate this important day observed across the world. The United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day in the International Women's Year, 1975. In 1977, the UN invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights and world peace.
It is a day which commemorates the movement for women's rights and celebrates their achievements, as well as drawing attention to the challenges facing women world- wide. On this day we also call for greater effort to be made toward gender equality and for an end to violence against women.
As we celebrate this year, the centenary of the forebears of our nation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Mme Albertina Sisulu. I wish to recall the words of Madiba when he said, "Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.
One of the themes chosen by the United Nations for International Women's Day 2018 is; The Time is Now: Rural and Urban activists transforming women's lives". This theme speaks directly to the mandate of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform as articulated in outcome which seeks to create vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities.
In our own country, much progress has been made in advancing gender equality and gender parity in both the private and public sector. As Madiba desired, "firm principles upholding the rights of women" are imprinted into the very fabric of our constitution as tribute to the legions of women who have navigated the path towards freedom. These women include, among others, the likes of Mama Charlotte Maxeke, Mama Adelaide Tambo, Mama Winnie Mandela Madikizela and Mama Sophie du Bruyn.
I am encouraged by the composition of our current cabinet, which comprises seventeen (17), strong and capable women ministers and twenty male ministers. There is no denying the critical role women play in government and society at large. Women have advanced significantly and are playing a meaningful role as, captains of industry, in civil society formations and in politics since the dawn of democracy.
I am humbled to have been granted the opportunity to continue to serve our government as a cabinet minister in my current portfolio as Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to serve in the Cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa alongside my sisters -ministers and deputy ministers.
During my tenure as minister in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, I had the pleasure of working with many of you who have joined us here tonight, ambassadors, and members of the diplomatic community. Your support and cooperation in the projects that we have run in the nine years I have served in that capacity have been heartwarming. I implore you to offer the same level of cooperation to the current minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
In 2015, African leaders adopted Agenda 2063 as the continent's new long-term vision for the next 50 years. It is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development. This is a continental object which we as South Africa are committed to implementing through our land reform programs and other progressive initiatives.
Land reform is key to unlocking the economic potential of our people including transformation of the rural economy to benefit communities previously denied access to land by past laws, policies and practices. It is no exaggeration to say that women bore the brunt of these policies.
Land was taken from masses of our people during the brutal wars of dispossession, the colonial era and by the apartheid government. The land must be returned to its rightful owners. The recent passing of a motion by our parliament to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation is an important step toward this long over- due process of a greater and accelerated restitution and redistribution of our land. Our people deserve to have their land and dignity restored, and they must be granted the opportunity to benefit from the economic prosperity that comes with the productive use of land as a resource.
Over the years, the restitution of land, through the Commission for the Restitution of Land Rights has indeed seen the restoration of vast tracts of land to many communities around the country. Approximately 80 000 land claims were lodged with the Commission by the cut of date of 31 December 1998 during the first phase of the lodgement period. Of these old claims, over 79 000 have been settled. Significant progress has been made in settling last remaining challenging cases.
The settlement of claims resulted in the award of more than 3.38 million hectares (of which 1.9 million hectares have been transferred to beneficiaries). Close to five hundred thousand households (in excess of 2 million individuals) had benefitted from the restitution programme. The government has spent well over R20 billion on the acquisition of land for restitution purposes.
Many of the communities and individuals to whom land has been restored have enjoyed significant reward and prosperity, by ensuring the land is productive. Thriving enterprises have emerged, jobs have been created and whole communities, continue to enjoy a better quality of life upon the return of their land.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are many success stories which prove that, once land is restored, our people do have the capabilities that are required to grow successful agricultural enterprises.
Among these is the award-winning Ravele land claim community of Limpopo who were dispossessed of their land in 1938. Following their dispossession they were forced to live scattered around several areas of the Limpopo Province, while others moved to Pretoria.
When the democratic government opened the window for the restoration of land rights during the first phase of the lodgement period, the Ravele community lodged their claim for all 16 farms from which they were removed by the previous government. Their land claim was success and settled in the year 2005. Today the Ravele restitution project is a thriving enterprise, which grows macadamia nuts, bananas, litchis and avocados for export to the international market. The project has won awards for the quality of their produce, while surrounding villages have found employment opportunities and there has been infrastructure development and the surrounding villages in the Vhembe District have also benefitted.
This is one of many examples of the benefits that accrue from land use as an economic resource. It is however also important to acknowledge that there are those projects that have not been successful. Some of these are plagued by infighting among beneficiaries and other structural deficiencies which we must address with the necessary urgency. Legislation is being revised in this regard in order to address some of the gaps that have been identified.
The Department recently released the Land Audit Report. This report has indeed confirmed that 23 years into democracy the majority of land in our country still remains in the hands of white South African males. It therefore came as no surprise when the results showed that women own the least amount of land.
Ladies and gentlemen, gender disparity remains an enormous challenge, but one which must be overcome in our life time. The Land Audit report reveals that males own 71% of farms and agricultural holdings in the country while females own a mere 13%.
When it comes to erven land ownership, a similar pattern emerges, the report shows that of the total erven land in the country, 46% of it is owned by men while women own only 17%.
This report provides us with empirical evidence that the struggle for gender equity is far from over. There is an urgent need to address the discrimination that women face in access to both land and financial resources in our country and in the world. I am determined to play my part in this national effort to transform the lives of, especially rural women and to bring about significant and tangible change in land ownership patterns by ensuring the equitable redistribution of land.
As we celebrate International Women's day we pay tribute to the women who have come before us. They are the mothers of the African National Congress whose courageous acts of bravery and determination contributed to breaking the back of the brutal apartheid system. We pay a special tribute to Mme Albertina Nontsikelele Sisulu whose centenary is being celebrated in our country this year together with that of Tata Nelson Mandela.
President of the Republic of South Africa Mr Cyril Ramaphosa has called on us to dedicate this international Women's day to the memory of Mme Sisulu whom he described as a courageous leader of the struggle. We must also acknowledge the contribution of the women who took part in the historic march of 1956 to the Union buildings to protest against the extension of the pass laws to women.
We honour the likes of Mme Charlotte Maxeke who was the first president of the ANC Women's league, Mme Lilian Ngoyi, Mme Helen Joseph, Mme Dorothy Nyembe, Mme Sophie du Bruyn, and Mme Rahima Moosa to name but a few. There are many other women in our townships, villages and all over the world, who played a meaningful role in our struggle for liberation, their names are not on plaques and monuments but their sacrifices are remembered and well appreciated.
To my sisters in the ANC Women's league and the Progressive Women's movement our task is clear. We must strengthen our resolve to ensure the complete emancipation of all women. We dare not rest until this task is complete.
As I conclude, ladies and gentlemen, I must again emphasis that International Women's day comes at a time when the world is grabbling with the scourge of gender based violence. In our own country the rate of violence and abuse against women and children is at an all- time high. I call on my colleagues, comrades and fellow activists in all sectors of our society to double their efforts to ensure that women are free from fear in their homes, in the streets, our schools and our places of work and worship.
On this note allow me to end by recalling the poignant words of Tata Madiba;
"FOR EVERY WOMAN AND GIRL VIOLENTLY ATTACHED, WE REDUCE OUR HUMANITY".
"FOR EVERY WOMEN FORCED INTO UNPROTECTED SEX BECAUSE MEN DEMAND THIS, WE DESTROY DIGNITY AND PRIDE" ,
"FOR EVERY MOMENT WE REMAIN SILENT, WE CONSPIRE AGAINST OUR WOMEN".
"FOR EVERY WOMAN INFECTED BY HIV WE DESTROY A NATION"
I THANK YOU