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ANC: Towards a resolution on rural development, land reform and agrarian change
2007
African National Congress (ANC)


The National Policy Conference of the ANC, held at Gallagher Estate in 2007, proposed a draft resolution on economic transformation to be considered for adoption at the 52nd National Conference in December. The draft resolution identifies rural development, land reform and agrarian change as a critical pillar of our programme of economic transformation, but also called for further work to clarify our vision and programme for rural development. This document is intended to take this work forward by providing a basis for discussion within and beyond the structures of the movement, with the aim of assisting the Polokwane Conference to conclude a resolution on these matters.

Noting that

  1. Colonialism and apartheid were rooted in the dispossession of the African people of their land, the destruction of African farming and the super-exploitation of wage labourers including farm workers and their families. Poverty, inequality and joblessness are the consequence of centuries of underdevelopment and exploitation consciously perpetrated on the majority of the population, which had its most destructive and enduring impacts on rural South Africa. Consequently, the structural faults that characterised the apartheid rural economy remain with us today.


  2. Although one third of our people live in former Bantustan areas, these regions account for one half of the poorest households. Joblessness is disproportionately high in rural areas, where the majority of those with jobs earn poverty wages. This burden of rural poverty falls hardest on women who are the majority in rural communities.


  3. The challenges of urban poverty and migration to cities are inseparably bound with the struggle to defeat poverty, create work and build a better life in rural South Africa. The poorest amongst the urban population have the strongest connections with rural areas. Limited opportunities of sustainable livelihoods in rural areas, insecurity of tenure and widespread evictions contribute directly to the growth of informal settlements in cities and towns. Moreover, the predominance of capital intensive farming on vast tracts of land in ‘white’ South Africa is directly linked to the reproduction of high population densities and land degradation in former Bantustan areas.


  4. Many rural areas continue to lack basic infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity supply. This lack of infrastructure entrenches the problems of chronic poverty and limits the potential of communities to sustain economic growth, rural livelihoods and social development. Our efforts to extend free basic services to all our people are slowest to reach the rural areas and farm-dwellers, even while the majority have access to free basic services in the urban areas. Moreover, access to governemnt services such as education and health care are the weakest in rural areas.


  5. Interventions such as the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme have made significant, but insufficient progress. Social grants are making a huge contribution to pushing back the frontiers of rural poverty, fighting hunger and improving potential for economic growth in rural areas. However, in the struggle to build a better life for all, grants are no substitute for a broader strategy of rural development and employment creation.


  6. Municipalities in the poorest and most rural parts of South Africa are amongst the most deprived in terms of human, physical and financial resources. This lack of capacity limits the extent to which rural municipalities can act as catalysts for growth and development.


  7. The current structure of commercial agriculture is the outcome of centuries of land expropriation, labour coercion and state subsidy for the chosen few. Since 1994, commercial agriculture has continued to develop in a manner that is characterised by growing concentration of ownership and farm size, underutilization of vast tracts of land, capital intensity, job-shedding and the casualisation of labour.


  8. While deregulation, liberalization and the resulting competitive pressures on the sector have eliminated many of the privileges of the large scale farm sector, various aspects of policy and legislation still reinforce the legacy of the past , including tax regimes that promote capital intensity and farm consolidation and laws such as the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act that make it difficult to redistribute land to a modern and competitive smallholder sector. At the same time commercial agriculture has also reacted to legislation intended to protect the rights of workers and farm dwellers by sharply reducing their number, resulting in significant job losses and painful evictions of people living on farms.


  9. Concentrated ownership, price collusion and the high degree of vertical integration in farming, agro-processing and retail limit the space for new entrants, particularly small holders, and undermine our efforts to build sustainable livelihoods in rural areas. Monopolistic practices also reinforce the recent rises in food prices, which undermines economic growth and the fight against hunger and poverty.


  10. Water is critical both for agricultural production and sustainable livelihoods in rural areas, but is a scarce resource throughout Southern Africa. Access to water has been skewed by apartheid agricultural policies in ways that reinforce inequalities and foster waste.


  11. Millions of our people farm on small agricultural plots in the former Bantustan areas and make a substantial contribution to poverty reduction and the creation of sustainable livelihoods in the most adverse conditions. Part time and full time agriculture in these areas remains a critical opportunity in our people’s efforts to combat poverty, provide social security for themselves and build sustainable livelihoods. Our efforts to support them have been inadequate.

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