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Controversy Over S. African Land

April 12, 2000

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ About 20 landless farm workers threatened on Wednesday to seize white-owned land if the Land Affairs minister did not meet with them in coming days.

The men, who are among the 27 percent of black South African families living on land they neither rent nor own, said they were inspired by the recent takeovers in neighboring Zimbabwe of more than 1,000 white-owned farms.

``We have to take action like Zimbabwe _ we can’t survive to see our family fighting for land to live on,″ said Thomas Dladla, one of the protesters from northeastern South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province.

The protesters carried sticks, a traditional shield and posters, one of which said in Zulu: ``What is happening in Zimbabwe is going to happen in Mpumalanga.″

The men gathered outside a government building in downtown Pretoria and demanded to see Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza. A spokesman for Didiza said she was unable to immediately meet with the protesters because she was in Cape Town. The protesters then demanded that Didiza meet with them by Sunday.

After apartheid ended with South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994, then-President Nelson Mandela assured landless blacks that their conditions would improve.

Nearly 40,000 individual and community land claims have been filed with the government by a deadline that expired 15 months ago, but many of the claims have not been settled yet.

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