President Cyril Ramaphosa has told the National Assembly that returning land to black South Africans will help heal the divisions of the past.
He responded to opposition party comments on the ANC's decision to follow through with plans to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
Ramaphosa took to the podium in the National Assembly on Tuesday to address both houses of Parliament during his reply to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) debate.
Parties debated his SONA on Monday for a marathon 10 hours.
Ramaphosa quoted the preamble of the Constitution immediately before coming to the complex issue.
"Now you may ask, why am I going through this? Because someone referred to the original sin that was committed in this country, the taking of land from the indigenous people in this country was the original sin."
He was referring to DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who said the 1913 Natives Land Act was apartheid's "original sin" before arguing against land expropriation without compensation.
"It caused divisions, hurt and pain among our people.
"What we need to do is be aware of the fact that we are all called upon to enjoin to heal the divisions and the pain of the past.
This is a collective task. It is not the task of the ANC alone. It is our task as a nation, it belongs to all of us.
"Yes, Julius Malema, it is just as much your task as it is my task. Yes, Mmusi Maimane, it is your task as it is my task," Ramaphosa said.
'Should we "just say, forget it"?'
The return of the land to the people from whom it was taken could be precisely how South Africa heals the divisions of the past.
"A number of white South Africans and companies have decided they are going to grasp the nettle and seize this as an opportunity to address the injustices of the past, so all of us collectively as South Africans can move forward, knowing we have addressed this issue."
Parliament needed to interrogate the statement that the expropriation of land without compensation was incompatible with a flourishing economy, or that it represented a "violation of the spirit" of the Constitution.
He then cited an example from a Mr Fredrick Alberts in Cape Town, whose house was forcibly taken from him, and who still felt the pain of the loss today.
"Should we just say, 'forget it, that belongs in the past'? He had a beautiful house, wonderful memories, and his dignity was razed to the floor, it was destroyed.
"What should we say to him?"
"Give him a house!" shouted one DA MP.
Freedom from 'bitterness and pain of the past'
Ramaphosa ignored the jibe and continued.
"This is a profound responsibility that has been given to our generation. In dealing with this complex matter, we will not make the mistakes that others have made.
"We will not allow smash-and-grab interventions. That we will not allow."
The amendment of the Constitution and execution thereof would be handled "in the same way" South Africa has handled all its issues.
No one is saying that land must be taken away from our people.
"Rather, it is how can we make sure that our people have equitable access to land and security of tenure.
"We must see this process of accelerated land redistribution as an opportunity and not as a threat.
"We must see it as an opportunity to free all of us from the bitterness and pain of the past."