A national grassroots movement for land reform used the occasion of the election to rally support for its cause. 

"It's no use voting," said Mangaliso Kubheka, spokesman for the Landless People's Movement (LPM), representing a network of nine regional and provincial landless people's non-governmental organisations.

"Our concern is that we voted in 1994, we were promised land and didn't get it. In 1999, we voted again and were promised a better life. Now, for the third time, there's nothing to show. So we feel there is nothing to vote for," Kubheka told Aljazeera.net.

As the country celebrates 10 years of democracy after the end of apartheid, Kubheka said: "We as the poor and landless majority have little to celebrate since we still do not have the land that was promised to us in the 1995 Freedom Charter and the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme."

On election day on Wednesday, at least 50 LPM supporters were arrested at the Thembelihle informal settlement, south of Johannesburg.  

Burning issue

Land reform remains a burning issue in South Africa, where tens of thousands of people were dispossessed of their homes under apartheid laws which reserved up to 87% of the country's most arable land for whites only.

Poverty afflicts thousands in
South Africa

The LPM has demanded a national summit to discuss "the fundamental constraints" that caused land reform to fail. 

The movement claims the ANC has transferred only 810,282 hectares of the 85 million hectares of agricultural land in 10 years to the landless.

The ANC, however, says that "since 1994, it has redistributed in excess of 1.8 million hectares of land and over half of all land restitution claims have been settled".

"The South African government is a democratically elected government that represents the popular will of the people, and will not be cowed into succumbing to deadlines based on lies and disinformation," it said in a statement. 

"If the LPM has legitimate concerns regarding the land restitution process, these can and should be dealt with through the appropriate government departments."

Land grab concerns

The land reform issue in South Africa has raised fears of a Zimbabwean-style land grab taking place in the country. But President Mbeki refuted this, saying South Africa has the legal provisions to prevent it.

"One of the constitutional provisions is that there needs to be respect for private property. But there's also a provision in the constitution, which says the matter of this land question needs to be addressed so that we redress past wrongs," the president said in a media interview.

"South Africa must resist any and all attempts at land seizures and invasions ... We must also look for new ways to find productive land for poor people"

Democratic Alliance,
official SA opposition

The official opposition, the Democratic Alliance too, has raised the issue of land reform, saying "South Africa must resist any and all attempts at land seizures and invasions". 

The DA, in its election manifesto, suggested an increase in the budget for land reform from R1.6 billion ($243 million) to R3 billion ($455 million), and said "we will help new farmers learn to use their land sustainably".

Another party critical of the land reform programme, the Pan Africanist Congress party, with three members of parliament, has politicised the issue around the slogan "one family, one plot".

The National Land Committee, which supports the LPM, has acknowledged that "the highly unequal access to land was, and remains, an integral component of the political economy of South Africa as a whole".