2013 Annual report by Nkuzi Development Association Director
In 2011, the Zuma government released the New Growth Path to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality. It acknowledges that poverty is at its deepest in rural South Africa. But government also ascertained that the economic policy will not fundamentally change. Hence it is doubtful that the NGP may make major dents in the GEAR policy. The policy framework foresees that 300,000 jobs will be created by 2020 in the smallholder sector and another 145,000 in value-adding activities.
“The framework speaks of forming social partnerships that would translate into the creation of one million jobs. Government relies on the buy-in of the commercial agriculture and agribusiness to allow small businesses to have space in the food market. The likelihood for cooperation with the politically driven program is not very high. Therefore, sustainability of the jobs created will remain a challenge.
The plans that government has for rural areas are seldom communicated with the historically marginalized sectors of the rural population. The idea of forming partnerships with a variety of formations in rural areas is customarily not preceded by a comprehensive awareness raising process whereby rural people have an opportunity to understand what is being planned on their behalf. Small scale farmers, food security groups and women’s organizations need to engage government aggressively about the implications of this document to the local economy.”
The South African government has good policies on paper, but a problem with the capability of state institutions to implement those policies coherently across the relevant sectors. Failures in the implementation of the land reform have led to increasingly violent rural protest. In addition, quicker and more effective moves towards an inclusive economy would require restorative justice that enables redress of the systematic race and gender based exclusion of the previous dispensation.
The reality is far from this. Section 34 of the 1994 Constitution guarantees that all citizens have the right to access the courts, but the system still favours the wealthy who can get fast and effective legal redress. Poor South Africans struggle to get their cases heard or get legal counsel. Widespread dissatisfaction with performance of the judiciary has led to people beginning to take justice into their own hands. Recent attempts of the government to introduce new restrictive legislation like the Protection of Information Bill (“Secrecy Bill”), to appoint political allies to key judiciary and law
The government has a budget of almost a billion Rand for a legal aid program for the poor. 420,365 cases were handled in 2010-11 and over 250,000 people provided legal advice. The program’s CEO considered this woefully short of requirements. The Legal Resources Center sees the government priorities wrong. Instead of reviewing the Constitutional Court, it should look at the structural problems at all levels of the justice system. “A large part of our work is focused on dealing with an incompetent public administration system. If that system fails the poor, you cannot even think of having access to justice.”
On the economic side, there is great anxiety as the cost of food and petrol are rising and impacting badly on the poor. Vast numbers of South Africans have inadequate income to meet basic nutritional requirements, and many experience periodic hunger. The food chain has become increasingly “corporatized” and subject to profit generation by big companies
Environmental conditions are also becoming more critical. The mining industry continues to disregard environmental regulations by pumping toxic waste into rivers which were providing drinking water for villagers and livestock. Among the culprits of such practices are politically connected BEE beneficiaries. The effects of climate change are beginning to be felt in the form of more frequent and severe weather extremes. South Africa’s high CO2 emissions will affect the emerging farmers to receive assistance with global relief fund that was launched at COP17 in Durban 2011. Commercial farming methods and long-distance food transportation are also among the causes of global warming, i.e. alternative ways of local production and marketing are required.
Agriculture currently employs around 630.000 people. Over 50.000 jobs have been lost per year since 1970, but the trend may be turning. Over 30.000 jobs have been created in the second half of 2011. The job creation potential in and around agriculture has been underutilized in two major ways. (1) Even though the number of smallholder farmers, their production and wage labor employment has recently been increasing, it is still far short of its potential and the volumes of the commercial sector. (2) The value addition potential in agricultural products is far from being realized.
Limpopo is a largely rural Province and has the fourth largest population in South Africa with about 5.5 million people (54.6% are women). The share of youth is about 39.4%, and that of black people 97 %. Limpopo is considered to be a poor province with approximately 87% of its people living in rural areas and with 23% of households having no access to piped water. Unemployment figures range from 35, 6% up to 48.8%, the HIV infection is at 21.5 %. The area has a large proportion of over-crowded former Bantustans as well as vast farms owned by white farmers.
The province is divided into five district municipalities, namely: Capricorn, Mopani, Sekhukhune, Vhembe and Waterberg. Each district municipality is further demarcated into five local municipalities giving a total of twenty-five.
Capricorn District and within it the local municipality of Blouberg are among the worst but exemplary cases of rural unemployment and chronic household poverty in South Africa. Blouberg (with a population estimated at 161,322) has the country’s lowest income level. The inhabitants are Bahananwa, Batlokwa, a small portion of Vha-Venda, as well as Afrikaans and English speaking farmers.
The area has a history of resistance to the early 19th century Boer colonial incursion. The introduction of the Bantustan and trust systems met with unabated community disapproval. Today Blouberg is one of the least developed regions of the province. Poverty and labor migration pose tremendous economic and social challenges to the municipality, especially a very high proportion of youth and households headed by women and increasingly also children. The majority of the people are illiterate.
South Africa’s problems with land reform
During most of the 20th century, apartheid had enabled white farm owners to build successful enterprises by owning the land, receiving extensive subsidies, operating in a protected market, and exploiting the labour of black workers. In 1994, fewer than 60,000 white farmers owned about 80% of the agricultural land. Around four million farm workers (including their families) lived on those farms with little or no tenure or residency rights. The new Constitution of post-apartheid South Africa has done away with the basis of that system:
No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.
Progressive legislation followed, but implementation has not always matched the intentions. The changing agricultural economy reshaped the terrain. Rising prices for machinery, elimination of subsidies, and droughts made life hard for farm owners and workers. Farms were given up or turned into game parks. Between 1993 and 2002, the number of commercial farms fell from almost 60,000 to just over 45,000. Between 1984 and 2004, some 1.7 million people were evicted from farms.
The trend has continued since then, but still about 15% of all employed South Africans work in agriculture. Since 1999, government policy promoted commercial agriculture over independent farms. A redistribution program to small peasant farmers was abandoned in favor of one in support of middle-class black farmers. Major social investment programs were cut back.
The government’s White Paper on South African Land Policyof 1997 set forth three areas for reform: (1) Land restitution for those dispossessed following the 1913 Natives Land Act; (2) land redistribution, providing government grants for land purchases on the open market; (3) tenure reform to address the rights of farm dwellers and farm workers.
From the beginning, inadequate budgetary allocations, unrealistic deadlines and a lack of adequate post-settlement support for land-reform beneficiaries have hampered both the redistribution and the restitution components of the land reform program.
In an attempt to move away from the bureaucratic and fragmented approach of both programs, the previous Department of Land Affairs adopted an ‘area-based planning’ approach in 2007. Area-based planning was to identify opportunities for land reform in rural areas and incorporate these into municipal planning and implementation procedures. In practice, planning remained focused more on land acquisition than on support for land reform beneficiaries.
Nkuzi conducted a pilot program in that context (see ALRI in section 3.1).
Tenure reform, theoretically the most important for the farm dwellers, has not done much better:
“The tenure security of farm dwellers has not been significantly enhanced since 1994, despite being regulated by the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 and the Labour Tenants Act of 1996. In fact, farm workers’ tenure has been severely compromised and the unintended trend is that the displacement of farm workers has increased since 1994, such that the proportion of farm workers that have lost their land rights is higher than the proportions that have gained strengthened tenure security.”
In 2005 the Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs convened a National Summit on land and agrarian reform. The proposals discussed included a moratorium on all evictions, separation of residency rights from employment status, and government to acquire land (including expropriation) for sustainable settlements and farm enterprises. Subsequently there has been little movement and progress on these resolutions. The ANC 2007 national conference in Polokwane indicated that land, agriculture and rural development would be given higher priority than in the past. This emphasis was also evident in the ANC’s 2009 election manifesto, and in the new administration’s subsequent announcement of a comprehensive rural development program in June 2009 (DLDLR 2009).