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'It's our land and we want it now': Urgent answers needed to South Africa's land crisis

Home for Eddie Mabena is a one room tin hut on a dusty plot he built for himself 20 years ago.

He has no power and no toilet. The only running water is the rain that leaks through the roof.

‘’It’s very difficult," he tells me. "How can I bring my wife and children here?’’

This is how millions of South Africans live. And the frustration is growing.

A quarter of a century since apartheid fell, the shacks are still standing.

It is damning indictment of the ANC’s failure to address an inequality hardwired into this nation’s landscape.

‘’They tell me to wait, to wait, to wait. But for how long? For months, for years? All I do is wait,’’ says Eddie

Eddie Mabena lives in a one room tin hut. Credit: ITV News

This is the township of Choba, between Pretoria and Johannesburg. It’s a small place, hemmed in by a main road on one side and new government houses on the other. Nothing like enough to satisfy demand.

So some of the residents here have taken matters into their own hands. It’s what they call an "invasion".

They went on to scrub land close by and taped out plots for the homes they need. They were soon evicted – and the dispute with the landowner is now in court.

But if they lose that legal wrangle, local activists say they won’t accept defeat.

"We will take the land by force. We will not be embarrassed by this. It is our land and we want it now.’"

So says Peter Seolela, of the Economic Freedom Fighters, our guide to this small corner of a battlefield that stretches across South Africa.

Often protests over land grow violent. Donald Trump’s tweets about farm seizures and bloodshed are well wide of reality, but tensions are rising.

There have been tense scenes recently.

With an election looming next year, and under pressure from the EFF and radicals in his own ANC, President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to answer the frustrations of the landless black majority.

He promised to change the country’s constitution to allow land to be taken without compensation. But in so doing he has only fuelled the fears of South Africa’s white minority, who own 72 per cent of farmland.

"This land is bought and paid for. I have the title deeds that go back four generations," says Bernadette Hall.

It’s a chilly late afternoon on the Highveld as she brings the cattle in for the night. I notice a handgun tucked discreetly beneath her shirt.

Bernadette has carried it since the murder, by armed raiders, of her husband six years ago.

"I lost my husband and now they want to take my farm," she says. "I’ve put my blood and my sweat and everything into this. They might as well slit my throat and have done with it."

Bernadette Hall has carried a handgun since her husband's murder. Credit: ITV News

On both sides, the debate has become dominated by emotion and political extremes.

This past week, a worried President Ramaphosa has stepped in again, assuring not just farmers, but international investors, that the land he has in mind to take is unused, or owned by speculators.

And to be sure, the greatest pressure on space from South Africa's growing black population is around the cities, not in the countryside.

Still the spectre of Zimbabwe – and the violent seizure of white farms followed by the destruction of its economy – has risen in many minds.

Can South Africa spare itself a similar fate? They’ve pulled themselves back from the brink of disaster in the past.

Farmers associations joined hands to sign an accord and search for a solution. Credit: ITV News

We witnessed a rare moment of racial unity. Farmers associations – black and deeply conservative white – joining hands this week to sign an accord and to search together for a solution. It has the backing of the government.

"We will ensure there are no land grabs," Deputy President David Mabuza told us. "But we must recognise that farmers, white farmers, must learn to share the land."

So is there room in this country for both Bernadette on her farm and for Eddie, desperate to leave his slum? An answer is required, urgently.