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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 20, 20 October 2004

In this Issue:

This edition also marks the second anniversary of Umsebenzi Online which was launched on 16 October 2002.

Red Alert

Our Red October Campaign is gathering pace

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Just two weeks into our 2004 Red October Campaign, its impact has reached far and wide. Provinces have held a number of farmworkers' and people's tribunals, forums, mass meetings and have also participated in other activities. From these gatherings, there is only one single message ' land and agrarian reform is moving too slowly and this continues to be a major national grievance in our country.

Ten years into a democratic South Africa, we have not seen any serious attempt on the part of beneficiaries of colonial and apartheid land dispensations to even just acknowledge the impact and continuation of this legacy. The major agricultural unions, Agri-SA and the 'Transvaal' Agricultural Union, tell us that they are co-operating with government's land reform programme, but they have raised massive objectives to the targets set out in the draft black economic empowerment charter for agriculture. Instead, together with their newly found political representative and ally, the Democratic Alliance, they are protesting at our Red October Campaign, seeking to castigate it as irresponsible.

It is time to confront agricultural capital in our country with the question of what they have done to accelerate the transfer of land over the last ten years? If they have been co-operating as they claim, why is it that less than 3% of productive land has been transferred to the majority of the people of our country? How do they justify the reality that more than 80% of productive land remains in the hands of some 46 000 white corporate entities and individuals' Instead of writing letters to our President asking us to be 'reigned' in, they must be made to answer these questions as well as to respond on what have they done over the past decade about this continuing historical and economic injustice, and what they intend doing about it.

In the wake of the SACP's statements and mobilisation, the beneficiaries of the colonial apartheid land dispensation are also attempting a moral and political blackmail against us. They claim that to raise a voice and mobilise our people around this historical injustice amounts to inflaming emotions and creating conditions for attacks on farmers. We reject this political blackmail. Emotions are not inflamed by our campaign; rather, the perpetuation of the apartheid land dispensation is the primary source of emotions on this question. One of the key issues our campaign is seeking to address is, in fact, an end to all forms of violence in our countryside, whether directed against farmers or the most pervasive one, black farmworkers.

Only two weeks into our campaign there is already a groundswell of positive responses from the mass of our people, saying that it is high time we build a progressive movement for land and agrarian transformation. This is best illustrated by the overwhelming response to our consultative meeting held last Friday in Johannesburg. This was a truly historic meeting, which, for the very first time, brought together more than 70 delegates representing 52 organisations. These included political organisations, mass formations, non-governmental and community- based organisations working for land and agrarian transformation, traditional leaders, trade unions and others. This national consultative meeting was preceded by SACP- convened provincial consultative meetings in some of our provinces like the Eastern Cape, KZN, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

All of these organisations commended our Party for this initiative. There was a general feeling that the struggles of workers and landless poor for land and agrarian transformation have been too fragmented, and there is a need to act in unity on this front. The meeting reached an historic conclusion. It resolved that beyond our Red October Campaign, which was widely endorsed by the meeting, we should come together again to work towards a minimum platform and towards a broad movement in this area.

The consultative meeting already identified and agreed on elements of such a future minimum platform for mobilisation and action on this front. It was agreed that this should be done as part of building a broad and mass based movement without any of the participating organisations sacrificing their own independent identities and programmes.

Elements of this minimum platform already agreed to at the consultative meeting included the convening of a National Land Summit, to be preceded by a People's Consultative Conference on Land and Agrarian Transformation, to review the land reform framework and progress as a whole. In addition the meeting agreed that a comprehensive land audit is needed, which would include transferred land, unused land and the state of land distribution in our country. The agreement also included mobilising for access to farms to organise farmworkers and their communities and an end to all evictions on farms. There was also consensus that the 'willing seller, willing buyer' model of land reform is inadequate for our purposes, and this matter will form part of the substantive discussions in later consultations.

These are truly historic agreements that give further impetus to our Red October Campaign. These agreements are also a far cry from the claim that our campaign is irresponsible, but instead underline the urgency of acceleration land and agrarian transformation in our country. This is the cry of millions of our people.

We also welcome the hearings convened by the Portfolio Committee on Land in Parliament. Today, Wednesday 20 October 2004, the SACP will be presenting its own assessment in these hearings on the state of land reform in our country, as well as making specific proposals on how to accelerate this process. To us this is another opportunity to further engage the democratic state on this important matter.

The key challenge, as all in the meeting agreed, is to intensify our work on the ground, to mobilise our people to lead the process of land and agrarian transformation for their own benefit. Over the next two weekends, the SACP will hold further people's forums and tribunals in provinces and districts. These ongoing activities form an important part of the mobilisation towards our National Day of Action, under the slogan 'Mawubuye Umhlaba' ('Land must be returned'), on 6 November 2004.

Submission by the South African Communist Party to the Public Hearings on the Pace of Land Reform in South Africa  

Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Affairs Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

"The land shall be shared among those who work it!... Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger; The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers; Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land; All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose; People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labour and farm prisons shall be abolished", Freedom Charter

"'The land redistribution programme must aim to redistribute 30% of agricultural land within the first five years of the programme", Reconstruction and Development Programme


1.1 The South African Communist Party (SACP) welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the important discussion on reviewing the pace, progress and framework of land reform in our country. We congratulate the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Affairs to use the advent of the 10th anniversary of the historic defeat of apartheid to go back to an important discussion on how far we have gone as a country to address an historic injustice. The land grievance is at the heart of what shapes South Africa today: continued land inequality is a perpetuation of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

1.2 Land reform is the form of the broader land and agrarian question which in South Africa is shaped by four factors:

  • The history of conquest and dispossession - gradual seizure of land; dispossession of native people; destruction of livelihoods and socio-political systems.
  • Exploitation of land and people through successive systems of labour coercion, or 'unfree labour', including slavery, as part of the emergence, growth and development of a capitalist economy of a special type in South Africa.
  • The development and entrenchment of a particular model of land ownership and utilisation patterns, including agriculture, with careful nurturing by an apartheid state.
  • After nearly a century of subsidies, protectionism and direct investment by the state, the white, male -dominated commercial agricultural sector, which owns more than 80% of our land, has now entered a period of restructuring and adjustment to a liberalised market environment.


2.1.1 The first ten years of democracy have seen considerable progress in terms of the recognition and protection of the land rights of all South Africans:

  • Land redistribution and restitution - This has seen some land being transferred to the majority of our people. Government has distributed about 2,1 million hectares through non-restitution programmes, plus about 810 282 through restitution, bringing total land redistribution to just under 3 million hectares.
  • Security of Tenure - A second major intervention by government has been through the extension of security of tenure particularly for farm workers and their families on farms, through the Extension of Security of Tenure, 62 of 1997. This has gone someway in protecting security of tenure for farm workers and their families.
  • Labour market reforms - As the SACP we have welcomed government's regulations on farm workers' minimum wage and conditions of service. This is an important intervention which, for the first time ever in our country, recognises the worker rights of farm workers.
  • The Agricultural Credit Scheme (ACS) - An important, but completely ignored (by media), announcement made by the President in his 2004 State of the Nation Address is the establishment and immediate capitalisation of R1bn of an Agricultural Credit Scheme to assist small scale agriculture.
  • AgriBEE Charter
  • LRAD grant

2.1.2 These interventions have not fundamentally (or even remotely) transformed the current accumulation regime and the political economy of the countryside: severe constraints mean that land ownership patterns and class relations still remain the same as under apartheid. This is clear from the fact that from 1994 to 2004, only approximately three per cent of land in white ownership was transferred to previously disadvantaged people. Other major problems are the continuing eviction of long-term residents from commercial far and the ongoing uncertainty around land rights in the communal areas. Much more remains to be done if the historical process of dispossession is to be reversed and a more equitable distribution of land achieved.

2.1.3 Like the rest of the South African economy, the accumulation regime in agriculture has not fundamentally changed since the historic defeat of the apartheid regime in 1994. Indeed, South Africa's agriculture and its accumulation regime still represent some of the worst features of the political economy of land and agriculture under colonialism and apartheid. Commercial agriculture is most resistant to transformation of the countryside and represents some of the most backward sections of South African capital. In fact, the current land reform framework and dispensation has, wittingly or unwittingly, emboldened this section of South African capital even to the extent of brazenly delegitimising the land grievance with the acquisence of most of the capitalist media and their political representatives and shop-stewards (the Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front +).

2.1.4 It is no surprise therefore that demands for land and wider agrarian reform strike at the heart of the highly racialised and stratified system of private property and corporate capitalism, and these demands will be actively resisted by those with vested interests in the current set-up. The struggle of poor landless people for land is an integral part of the wider struggle for social, political and economic emancipation: it cannot be consigned to a 'welfare issue' or merely a 'symbolic' or even 'emotional' issue, nor to the mere restoration of historical rights; it is rather a key issue of survival and empowerment for a large proportion of our population.

2.1.5 The land and agrarian question also underlines the manner in which the South African capitalist path of accumulation continues to rely heavily on patriarchal domination over black women. Traditional structures of domination - chieftaincy, village headmen, and house-hold patriarchy - were appropriated, perverted, and their coercive features exaggerated for the purposes of colonial control and accelerated capitalist accumulation. Black women generally, and African women in particular, have played the central role in the production and reproduction of the working class - a working class that was "cheap" (for the capitalists), not just because it suffered direct coercion (colonial dispossession, pass laws, compounds, starvation wages), but also because the burden of its reproduction was carried by the unpaid labour of landless and rightless women in rural areas initially. Up to now, the land reform process has not fundamentally altered gender relations in the countryside. It is therefore particularly regrettable that the Communal Land Rights Act was passed by the democratic parliament despite its perpetuation of this patriarchal legacy and undue concessions to conservative sections leading traditional leaders.

2.1.6 Clearly, the results of more than three centuries of dispossession cannot be reversed overnight, and it is inevitable that the legacy of the past will continue to shape the pattern of landownership and land rights for many decades to come. In the analysis of the Communist Party, key reasons for the slow pace of reform include:

  • The market-based land reform framework means that the interests of the historically disposed are postponed in favour of the interests of current landowners. This market-based approach means that the state is obliged to pay existing owners prevailing market prices for land, and that (with few exceptions) current owners are not obliged to sell.
  • The budgets provided for land reform have grown since 1994, but still remain inadequate relative to the price of land and the millions of people who remain landless or in need of land.
  • Land reform is also hampered by the absence of a proactive and activist state-led approach to land acquisition. Under the redistribution programme, for example, landless people themselves are responsible for identifying suitable land, approaching the current owner and agreeing a purchase price, prior to approaching the Department of Land Affairs for financial assistance. This places considerable power in the hands of current landowners and serves as a deterrent to many landless people. The relatively large-scale (and hence the high price) of most South African farms means that most would-be beneficiaries can only hope to acquire land by pooling their resources with others, often in sizable groups, a process strongly discouraged by official policy.
  • Another major weakness remains the absence of an active and state-led industrial strategy for the agricultural sector which would create a single state-led sustainable economic development and poverty eradication growth path thus transforming both the mainstream agricultural sector and the former Bantustans for the benefit of the landless poor and rural dwellers. The integrated rural development strategy falls short of such a strategy.

2.1.7 A related and important matter is that of how the structure of agricultural markets affect food security. The structure of agricultural markets and the agricultural value chain subjects the ways in which most of South African food is produced, distributed and sold to the interests of agricultural capital. In addition, food security is also affected by large scale, over exploitation of natural resources and environmental factors such as rapidly increasing levels of pollution, climate changes, the widespread degrading of arable land, shrinking water supplies, disappearing forests, collapsing fisheries, trade subsidies in developed countries and controversial technological solutions such as the spread of genetically modified food. The impact of all these factors affects the growing number of poor and working people very much more than others, especially poor women

2.1.8 In the South African context, land reform cannot be limited to rural or agricultural land leaving aside urban and residential land. Very few municipalities have linked their key mandates and programmes with land reform which could include cooperative purchasing of food and fair-price grocery outlets relying on small farm producers; campaigns around food prices directed against the hegemony of agribusiness and major retailers; food garden and cooperative projects in townships; urban land for housing needs and general urban land usage.


3.1.1 Considerable efforts are required to conscientise and unite landless people, to formulate specific demands at a local level, to pursue these issues within formal structures such as ANC structures, constituency offices, trade unions, women's organisations, municipalities, tribal authorities, etc. and to stimulate a culture of self-mobilisation and self-organisation through People's Land Committees, communal gardens, co-operatives, and identification of unused land. Such 'pressure from below' has been noticeably absent in the land reform process to date. Mobilisation of this sort will require new alliances between political organisations and mass movements. Members of parliament themselves and the state have a role to play in this mass mobilisation. In the case of Brazil, President Lula spent three days in September last year meeting with more than 1,000 delegates representing the landless where measures were agreed on to accelerate land reform.

3.1.2 The Communist Party is keenly interested in deepening unity between, on the one hand, a progressive and democratic state and parliament, with, on the other hand, the organised mass power of the landless. This unity is critical in shaping an appropriate relationship of engagement and struggle with the agricultural capital who are beneficiaries of colonial and apartheid land dispossession. Indeed the state has an interest in the success of the agricultural sector. But this cannot be on the carcass of landless.

3.1.3 Linked to this is the constitutional framework which protects property rights and promotes a less active state which centrally drives land reform. The logic of the framework leads the state to be a mere facilitator for agreements to be reached. However, the same property clause also provides a clear mandate to the state to undertake a massive state-led land reform programme. Practically, this means that the state can and must be more active in acquiring land for redistribution.

3.1.4 In other words, the role of the democratic parliament and government is critical in addressing this historical grievance. The democratic government has a constitutional mandate and legislative, budgetary and implementation power which must all be now used advance a thorough-going and pro-poor land reform process. One of the practical things is that of a state-led industrial strategy for the agriculture sector .


4.1 In a context of widespread joblessness and chronic poverty, however, redistributing land from a small minority to the mass of the population is an urgent priority. Land has the potential to provide a basic livelihood to millions of people, and can help to restore the dignity of those who have suffered centuries of dispossession and exploitation.

4.2 The following are absolutely critical priorities for the years ahead:
4.2.1 The replacement of the present willing-seller, willing-buyer approach;
4.2.2 Transfer of a substantial proportion of agricultural land from white to black farmers. This will require:

  • the cooperation of all stakeholders, including current landowners;
  • accelerated state acquisition of land for redistribution at prices set by the state through, amongst other measures, the increased use of expropriation as a method for land acquisition and the need for the state to have the right of first refusal for private land transactions;
  • provision of unused land by absentee landlords, big farmers, national and provincial government, municipalities, churches and parastatals;
  • land tax for unused land (to provide an incentive to use land more intensively and increase overall supply of land to the market, and to reduce land speculation) linked to expropriation of unused land;
  • increased budget allocations to ensure adequate financial resources for land and agrarian reform;
  • access to resources, equipment, long-term post-settlement support and credit;

4.2.3 Long-term support from small-scale and emerging farmers, from state and private sectors, in order to create sustainable land-based livelihoods;
4.2.4 Radical restructuring of agricultural markets and support services in line with pro-poor land and agrarian reform;
4.2.5 Increased protection for those currently living with insecure tenure rights, both on private farms and in communal areas, as well as developmental assistance in order to boost livelihood opportunities and reduce poverty;
4.2.6 Rapid provision of land for housing in urban areas, within reach of jobs and services, and for other urban dimensions of land use
4.2.7 Review of provisions of the Communal Land Rights Act to address concerns raised
4.2.8 The consideration of an industrial strategy for the countryside in order to build sustainable livelihoods and communities, to eradicate rural poverty, and accelerate rural development.

We call on parliament to play its appropriate role in realising the above priorities.

4.3 Effective action to ensure access to basic services and rights for farm workers and dwellers including:
4.3.1 Effective and efficient implementation of the sectoral determination for farm workers through:
4.3.2 Access to farms to organise farm workers into trade unions & to conduct education on rights and laws about tenancy, evictions, etc;
4.3.3 An ultimatum on illegal evictions in farms;
4.3.4 An end to all forms of child labour;
4.3.5 Free education, school transport, nutrition & health care for children of farm workers;
4.3.6 Improving provision of social security to farm workers & their families; and
4.3.7 The extension of adequately resourced Justice Centres into rural areas.

Parliament has powers and a central role to play in realising these practical actions.

4.4 National Land Summit

4.4.1 We call for: The convening of a National Land Summit within 12 months (during 2005), as an inclusive stakeholder sectoral summit bringing together government, farm workers and labour organisations, landless people, landowners & agricultural capital in order to:

  • review land and agrarian reform since 1994
  • agree on a massive deal and specific measures and policies to accelerate land and agrarian reform
  • map out a strategy to transform the agricultural sector in favour of broad-based, and not narrow black economic empowerment
  • review policy on foreign land ownership The convening of Provincial Land Summits in advance of the National Land Summit. In the immediate period, empowerment and resourcing of farm workers, rural dwellers, the landless, the workers and the poor to ensure their informed input into the Agri-BEE Charter. A land audit, to be conducted before the National Land Summit, to focus, amongst other things on:

  • all land transferred to individuals and communities through the land reform programme
  • the extent of real impact on livelihoods of land reform on beneficiaries, in particular women
  • barriers and blockages to land and agrarian reform
  • land available for redistribution

4.4.2 Ten years into a democratic South Africa, we have seen massive resistance to land reform and protection of apartheid land ownership patterns and slave-labour conditions under which close to a million farm workers still toil. Therefore agricultural capital must answer the question: what is their contribution to democracy? What is their contribution to addressing the historical land grievance? How can they justify the reality that more than 80% of productive land is still in the hands of some 46,000 white corporations and individual farmers? How can they justify the reality that less than 3% of this land has been redistributed to the landless over the last ten years? What have they done about this, and what are they going to do to correct this huge historic, social, political and economic injustice? The National Land Summit is an important opportunity for this discussion to take place and for a historic breakthrough on the land question to be achieved.