Minister Lamola Turns His Focus to Land Reform

By Raine St.Claire

Honourable Ronald Ozzy Lamola is the current Minister of Justice and an ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member. He holds a Masters of Law in corporate law and extractive law, both obtained at the University of Pretoria and also acquired an LLM and a post-graduate certificate in telecommunications policy, regulation, and management from Wits. Minister Lamola enjoys mountain biking, playing football to relax and spending time with his wife and 2-year-old son. He is also the youngest minister in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

A Lived Experience Of The Constitution

“I have practised and lived the Constitution from early in my life as an activist in the ANC and in actual practice. The Constitution is new, and all of us are still grappling with its interpretation. I am part of one of the first generations that was taught the Constitution in the current dispensation, so I believe it makes me the perfect candidate. I am also qualified to be a judge of any High Court in this country. I have accumulated enough years of practice, and now I can undergo judge training. If I’m qualified to be a judge, I also qualify to be a Minister of Justice.” and it is clear that he is considered more than qualified.

Over and above being re-elected to a seat on the ANC NEC in December 2022 and re-elected to the NWC in January 2023, two of its most powerful structures, he was appointed to lead South Africa’s delegation to the United Nations International Court of Justice in The Hague in a bid to end the genocide currently taking place in Gaza.

Career-Defining Challenges and Obstacles

Minister Lamola’s journey to becoming one of the country’s youngest Cabinet ministers involved student politics, active participation in the ANC’s youth structures, and a background in activism and radicalism. Despite facing challenges, including a suspension in 2011, Minister Lamola sees his time away as a ‘sabbatical’ during which he earned two master’s degrees in corporate law and extractive law in Africa. Publicly acknowledging his sister’s support, who sponsored his education through ‘black tax,’ he emphasises the importance of preparedness for the political challenges facing the younger generation in the ANC.

Upon returning to the political scene, he served as then Deputy President David Mabuza’s spokesperson, and established his own law firm. His language is measured with a lexicon indicative of a deep understanding and passion for politics, he however, prefers not to label himself a ‘comeback kid,’ emphasising the challenges and adversities he endured in the South African political arena. “It’s not like I’m just falling from heaven. I’ve been tried and tested in the politics of the youth league, of the ANC and of the mass democratic movement and, in fact, it’s a delayed process.

Building Political Consciousness

Growing up on a farm near Kruger National Park in Bushbuckridge, a remote area, Minister Lamola’s political awareness began in the early ‘90s at age 10. Radio news about CODESA peace talks ignited hope, shaping the future Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. His parents sent him to a small farm school initially, later moving to high school in Bushbuckridge and a pivotal moment came in 1996 when a teacher introduced the Constitution, sparking Minister Lamola’s activism against corporal punishment.

Ambitious Plans

Minister Lamola has hit the ground running since his appointment on May 29, 2019. He has already visited courts and prisons across the country. Added to his to-do list is driving land reform, a project he is passionate about due to observing his parents toiling on a farm they did not own while growing up. However, he emphasises that the land question is no longer solely about agriculture; the urban question also needs to be addressed. He bears the responsibility of overseeing the National Prosecuting Authority in his portfolio. His aim is to address the correctional services system and to “overhaul” the court system – a set of mammoth tasks!

Words Of Caution For A Promising Future

There are 155 000 inmates countrywide, and while plans are underway to make education compulsory in all prisons, Minister Lamola emphatically believes that prisoners should be equipped to support themselves upon release to prevent reoffending. “Whether you pursue matric, plumbing, or boiler making, we don’t want you to leave and cause chaos in our communities upon release,” he urged. “If I find your parole request, I would reject it if you haven’t equipped yourself because it would mean you are a liability, even if psychologists say you are rehabilitated,” he concluded. He emphasised that this approach also aims to dispel widely held narratives that prisons are breeding grounds for criminality. In response to whether he could one day become president, as some have predicted, he said, “No, I don’t know! I mean, I can’t be prophetic. We will see. Time will tell.”

Sources: South African Government | News24| BusinessDay

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