Courage of the oppressed at land dialogue

12 Dec 2018 - 09:30

Steve Biko CentreThe Steve Biko Centre in King Williams Town is an apt location to witness the courage of the oppressed and the downtrodden, and this is where representatives from such communities have converged since the weekend.

Coming together under the banner of the Inyanda National Land Movement, delegates representing associations and community organisations of farm workers, farm dwellers, rural dwellers, fisher folk, women, youth, the landless and the unemployed, are aiming to come up with a new vision for land reform in the country. 

They have been reflecting on real case studies from communities who are confronting land injustices, dispossession, threats to their environment and livelihoods, traditional authorities, or unresponsive, under-resourced and corrupt municipalities and government departments. These  communities have one thing in common: they will not give up and back down from their struggles and their radical vision for agrarian transformation in their localities. 

“We must get new paradigms and designs for development and governance that advance the interests of the downtrodden and oppressed,” said Dr Wallace Mgoqi, a Commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), and one of two invited guests who gave introductory remarks and opened the gathering. 

“The case studies are harrowing and horrendous experiences which our people have to go through on a daily basis. It will be a sad day if these are not documented, as very little is known outside these settlements about where these people find themselves,” he added. 

The two-day Inyanda Land Dialogue is meant to allow the movement, which is made up of affiliate organisations in five provinces, to develop practical plans and strategies around land reform and agrarian transformation. 

Among the key questions delegates have been grappling with are what land must be expropriated, who must lead this process, and what should be the role of government and traditional leaders. 

In his introductory remarks to the gathering, the other specially invited guest Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza threw a challenge to delegates to rethink the notion of only demanding things. Prof Ntsebeza is a scholar in land reform and democracy and is based at the University of Cape Town. 

“Demanding this and that gives you the impression that your task is only to demand; and then after that to fold your arms and do nothing more. But is that what our struggle is all about? Merely about demands; externalising our problems, and letting other people do the job for us?” he said. 

“It is our business to say we have an idea of the kind of society we want. We have an idea of how we can get there and we are going to come up with our own programme of action. Not merely demands,” he added.

Delegates at the Steve Biko Centre have been hearing from activists and community representatives    who are engaged in current struggles around land and livelihoods. These included representatives from: 

Centane and Peelton districts in the Eastern Cape, who reported on land grabbing for extractive agriculture, including the planting of GMO crops that threaten their soil and livestock;  

  • Farmworkers from both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape who have been left short-changed from share equity schemes on the farms, and where the white farm owners earned millions from government grants; 
  • Act 9 areas, such as Zoar and Suurbraak in the Western Cape, who reported on their struggles around access to communal lands to improve their food security;
  • Small-scale livestock farmers in both rural and peri-urban areas who are fighting for adequate commonage land for grazing and who constantly have to battle against impounding of their animals because of the lack of commonage;
  • Small-scale fishers in Dwesa-Cweba in the Eastern Cape, who reported on their battles to gain access to fish and marine sources that have now been fenced off in the name of conservation; and 
  • Activists in communal areas, specifically Cala in the Eastern Cape, who are challenging corrupt and despotic traditional authorities who fail to consider the views and interests of local people. 

The Inyanda National Land Movement is a movement of the dispossessed, the oppressed and the exploited who are working for transformation of the countryside. It was established in 2014, and currently has a presence in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo Provinces. The Land Dialogue in the Eastern Cape is expected to produce a comprehensive strategy around land reform and agrarian transformation which will be taken up by Inyanda affiliate organisations in 2019. 

For further comment you may contact: 

Mr Adam Mabunda (Mopani Farmers’ Association and member of the Inyanda National Council)
on Tel: 073 642 8041

Fani Ncapayi (Senior Researcher of Inyanda National Land Movement)
on Tel 082 440 6067

Mercia Andrews (Co-director of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education)
on  Tel: 021- 685 3033 or 082 368 3429