As the land reform debate gains momentum, the EFF has set its sights on vast tracts of church-owned land.
The party believes South Africa’s largest churches, including the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and the Dutch Reformed Church should not be exempt from land expropriation.
EFF spokesperson on land Sam Matiase said: “All that land must be put under the custody of the state for the benefit of people.”
Matiase said the church land should be treated the same way as the land held by private individuals, including that held in trust by traditional leaders.
Recently President Cyril Ramaphosa assured Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, that land it held “on behalf of Zulu people” was “safe” after veiled threats of violence and secession.
None of the churches would disclose how much land it owned.
The Anglican Church has 23 dioceses across the country while the Catholic Church has 26.
In a recent communique to the various dioceses, Anglican Church Archbishop Thabo Makgoba appealed for land to be used productively and for the benefit of people.
“At a time in South Africa when tensions are building over how we control and manage the land, my call is for parishes and dioceses of our church to be in the forefront of the dialogue over land reform.
“We can infuse a debate otherwise being pursued for political and commercial gain with the values of the Gospel: values of sharing, reconciliation and healing,” he said.
But Makgoba said some of the dioceses in the Eastern Cape had donated pieces of land to communities in Makhanda, St Luke’s near East London and Bolotwa near Komani which had subsequently been put in trusts with the aim of benefitting the people.
The Catholic Church urged the government to be cautious in how it will implement the expropriation without compensation policy if it was “finally adopted”.