Advances in rural transformation, says review

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pretoria – According to the 20 Year Review, the challenge for rural development since the dawn of democracy has been to address the marginalisation of the poor, with many rural areas and households trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

“[The democratic] government committed  to developing sustainable rural communities by focusing on land reform, agrarian reform, improving rural household food security and rural services, improving access to education and creating employment in rural areas, skills development, youth development, cooperative and small enterprises development, and improving planning and coordination capacity for rural development,” says the Review.

The Review was released by President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Tuesday.

In 1994, rural South Africa was a mix of white commercial farming areas and marginal areas deliberately selected as “homelands” where the black majorities were forcibly moved. Homelands were generally characterised by dense semi-urban settlement patterns, communal land tenure, poor services, marginal economies and weak institutions.

In 1994, 60 percent of the South African population called rural areas home, with some 17 million people living mainly in the areas of the former homelands, which had only just been incorporated into the new South Africa.

Colonialism and the implementation of apartheid policies, especially the 1913 Natives Land Act, resulted in large-scale, racially-based dispossessions of land ownership rights, which in turn resulted in a highly inequitable distribution of land ownership.

In 1994, most agricultural land was owned by whites (87 percent and only 13 percent) of the land was available for black people in the former homelands.

Rural transformation

Since 1994, restricted economic and social development in rural areas has resulted in many rural people migrating to urban areas in search of better economic opportunities.

Between 1995 and 2008, the population of the former homelands grew by only 9 percent, while the population in metropolitan areas grew by nearly 40 percent, secondary cities by 24 percent and commercial farming areas by 15 percent.

By 2012, the percentage of the population living in rural areas had declined to below 50 percent.

The Review says government policy regarding agrarian transformation involved ensuring more equitable access to land, water, economic institutions, finance and infrastructure for landless people, farmworkers and smallholder farmers, as well as raising productivity and diversifying rural economies and rural employment.

Smallholders were strengthened and their numbers increased, and rural households would produce their own food. To address the legacy of large-scale dispossession of land, land reform became an important component of delivery for the state.

Land reform would be addressed through land restitution - giving people back the land they had been moved from, or compensating them, land redistribution - providing redress through giving people land - and tenure reform.

Restitution of land rights

Government enacted the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994, which provided that a person, a deceased estate, a descendant or a community that had been dispossessed of land rights as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices after 19 June 1913 was entitled to lodge a claim for the restitution of such rights by no later than 31 December 1998.

About 80 000 claims for restitution were lodged before the cut-off date. A Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament, to extend the date for the lodging of claims for restitution to 31 December 2018.

In 1994, government introduced the Land Redistribution Programme to enable individuals and groups to obtain a grant for the purchase of land from a willing seller, to be used for both residential and agricultural production purposes.

In 2001, the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Grant was introduced to establish and promote emerging farmers. The slow pace of land reform, as highlighted at the 2005 Land Summit, led to the introduction of the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), meant to accelerate the pace of land reform.

The use of grants for land acquisition was discontinued after consultations with land reform beneficiaries in 2009. The focus shifted to the acquisition of strategically located land through PLAS in that land was leased rather than transferred to land-reform beneficiaries.

Government committed to transfer 30 percent of the 82 million hectares of agricultural land owned by whites in 1994 to blacks by 2014, a total of 24.5 million hectares, through both land restitution and land redistribution.

The Review says in practice, since 1994, through both land restitution and redistribution, government has redistributed 9.4 million hectares, benefiting almost a quarter of a million people, mostly through cash transfers.

Recently, government has completed a national audit of land ownership, occupant/user rights to the land, and current usage. This information will assist government to identify further land for land reform purposes. 

“Despite this progress, land reform has not yet realised its potential to stimulate economic growth and employment, especially in the agricultural sector. Very few commercial farms are owned by black people. A large number of land-reform beneficiaries are not using the land productively, partly due to inadequate infrastructure, inputs and technical support after they were settled,” reads the Review.

In 2010, a Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RECAP) was introduced to provide increased support to land reform beneficiaries to enable them to utilise their acquired land as well as to address infrastructure backlogs on the acquired farms.

One of the problems related to under-utilisation of acquired land has been the resale of land by beneficiaries; however, the recent Green Paper on Land Reform proposes measures to address this by limiting the resale rights of land reform beneficiaries.

Government introduced the Communal Land Rights Bill in 2002, which subsequently translated into the Communal Land Rights Act (CLARA) of 2004.The Act seeks to give land-owning communities land tenure rights, which are protected by law.

It also seeks to give communal land ownership to communities who have received land from the state and provide for suitable redress to persons whose tenure of land is insecure due to past discriminatory laws or practices.

“Progress in implementing the Act stagnated following constitutional challenges, and remains under development,” says the review. 

Women Access to Land

An enabling environment has been created for women to access, own, control, use and manage land, as well as to access credit, notes the review.

It says this led to an increase in female-headed households benefiting from land reform, from 1.2 percent of beneficiaries in 1994 to 13.3 percent of beneficiaries by 2007. -

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