Land & Local
Government: Problem or Potential?(Part
AFRA News No. 60
All that they Promised they would Do
- Lisa Del Grande
It has been estimated that there
are anything up to 8 million people living on commercial agriculture
farms, as tenants, in South Africa.These
people have been recognised by the South African government as being the most
marginalised and poorest sector of our society today
(referenced in the ISRDS).Despite
this recognition, no programme for service delivery, land reform or agrarian
reform has been developed to address their particular needs and challenges, and to ensure that they too can benefit
from programmes to transform our society.
A recent overview commissioned by the DPLG, of how land
reform is featured in IDPs, highlighted the fact that few municipalities had
even considered this sector in their development plans. Where farm residents or
tenants had been considered,
proposals for addressing their developmental needs focused on solutions under
land reform and housing. This strategywould often require relocations into communal forms
of ownership, or housing schemes in townships or agri-villages.
A clear message from farm dwellers
messages have begun to emerge from people living on farms about their
experiences of land reform and development, and their expectations of these
programmes and services. In the last two years AFRA has attempted to capture
some of these experiences and aspirations in an attempt to find alternative and
more realistic solutions and strategies to the government's current land reform
and service delivery programmes for
people on farms.
In 2005, a series of workshops with farm residents across
KwaZulu-Natal revealed that there is immense expectation from farm residents,
dwellers, and tenants that they will get their land
back. While this seems like a simply obvious statement to make, it in fact
speaks to the heart of the current conflicts over land.It also speaks to the protracted negotiations
that take place in trying to drag farm dwellers through the inappropriate land
reform programmes currently in existence. Clearly the land reform programme was
not established with the view of making all farm dwellers owners of the land on
which they reside!Nevertheless, this is
still the expectation of many farm dwellers.
At the workshops held in 2005, in response to the question
"What does it mean to you to live well on the farm?", three participants had the
following to say:
"The problem is that we do not have land ownership, so we
can't do anything. If we could get land ownership our lives as Zulus would be
much better, because we could have goats, cattle and cropping fields - all of
this is life for us."
"If we could get ownership to our ancestral land which
was stolen from us we could see democracy.We are in a rush to get our land back, and then development will follow."
"Land is the only thing that can liberate us economically
Part of this expectation can be
attributed to the reality that South Africans have a long history of devastating
dispossession from land and from their livelihoods in the interests of race, big
business and conservation.People living
on farms are part of this history. Many have remained on farms in semi-feudal
conditions for generations, leaving the vast majority illiterate and unskilled
in today's economy.In spite of this,
this is still their home, as Johannes Sosibo, a farm resident succinctly
stated in the Natal Witness in
"Relocation does not better a person. In fact, it loses
sight of the social issues related to that particular piece of land. The current
tenure solutions discriminate against the poor who are politically and
economically weak. The landless farm occupiers also challenged apartheid like
other South Africans, who are now liberated. But unlike the others, they cannot
challenge government development programmes or receive basic services because of
their insecure tenure. And yet, economic development can be boosted if
government strengthens people's land rights because current land policies are
about the root of poverty reduction."
Clearly new strategies will
need to be developed to meet this challenge.
For local government the challenge is particularly daunting,
as it is their responsibility to ensure everyone has access to basic services,
the delivery of which is seen to be a cornerstone to broader economic
development. Three key challenges arise when trying to deliver this basic
service to farm dwellers:
to and planning for the farm dweller sector;
services to farm dwellers on land owned privately by a third party;and
of supplying and maintaining basic services to farm dwellers who are likely to
relocate because of the land reform programme.
Planning for farm dweller needs
A key reason for farm dweller issues not featuring in IDPs
is because farm dwellers are often not represented at any point in the IDP
consultative process, except perhaps through the vision of existing commercial
farmers. Many IDP processes are driven by professional planning consultants who
have little to no knowledge of the realities of rural communities' livelihoods.Access to marginalised groups remains a huge challenge for local
government. Farm dwellers cannot be found in one area or in accessible places.
They are not particularly mobile and are also not easily contactable through
traditional communication channels. They are also often in extremely dependent
relationships with land owners which can further inhibit their access to
information and mobility to attend public meetings.
This lack of self-representation by farm dwellers generally leads to an
assumption that there are no particular issues
that need to be addressed, and it also veils the reality of the hardships that
farm dwellers face.
the one hand, there are limitations to the IDP processes in terms of time and
budgets, so ensuring that there is authentic representation by and of farm
dwellers can appear to be a difficult task.On the other hand, IDPs are the very vehicle which are meant to drive the
idea of forward planning which is meant to address spatial imbalances in the
economy. IDPs are not just a list of “backlogs”.For a large number of municipalities, where agriculture and agro-tourism
form a critical part of their development vision and plans, not considering the
vision and needs of farm dwellers could render these plans useless
realities emerge in implementation. The existence of farm dwellers represents an
aspect of the spatial imbalances referred to above that must be addressed
through the IDP process. For example, supporting ideas of agri-villages, game
farms and continued large scale commercial agriculture, will definitely be
challenged by farm dweller residents when they are asked to relocate in the
interests of these development plans.
Growing frustrations with the Land Reform Programme are also
leading to a growth in organised formations of farm dwellers. These formations
will undoubtedly begin to challenge local government around its lack of delivery
and in fact this has already begun to happen.Municipalities will be forced to go back to their IDPs to include farm
dweller issues. Clearly it is in the interests of municipalities to pre-empt
this situation by insisting that the IDP process incorporates the farm dweller sector – from the
situational analysis, to the development of a vision for commercial agricultural
areas, to the plans for the provision of basic services. While most
municipalities will be willing to do this, they will
then alsoface the next challenge of how
to provide such services on privately held land.
Providing services on private land
Access to basic services, like water and access roads, is
not just important for supporting people's livelihoods on farms.It is also a very important way for the new
dispensation to recognise previously marginalised citizens. By proactively
providing farm dwellers with basic services, the
government will be saying to people on farms that they are recognised and equal
citizens of this new South Africa. For many farm dwellers this has been and
remains a clarion call. There is great expectation of the government to restore
not only their land, but also their dignity – through recognition.
service delivery planning mechanisms these expectations have proven to be a
nightmare. This is because planning for
services is often based on a relatively accurate number of households, in a
relatively well planned and accessible settlement pattern. Most importantly for
municipalities supplying the services, households must have relatively secure
tenure so that they are rateable to recover costs and maintain the service.
when it comes to farm dwellers, the first challenge is that
accurate statistics on the number and location of farm dweller households does
not exist in any municipality. Secondly, farm dwellers do not own the land on
which services need to be supplied, and so questions arise as to who will own
the infrastructure and who will maintain it.
challenges however, may not really be used as an excuse for non-delivery of
services, as research reveals
that there are in fact no laws or by-laws
supporting the perception that services cannot be delivered on private land. The
Municipal Systems Act (2000) requires municipalities to “ensure that all members
of the local community have access to at least the minimum level of basic
municipal services” and it goes on to say thatthese services should be equitable and
accessible. In fact where people are not able to access municipal services
themselves, the municipality is obliged to assist them by providing the service,
or by facilitating or compelling a third party to provide this
delivering services on private land (such as commercial farms) is a practical
rather than a legal one. There is a belief that if the municipality puts in
infrastructure for the service it will increase the value of the land of the
land owner. This is questionable, and can be challenged or remedied legally to
enforce the use of the infrastructure for which it was funded. Municipalities do
not have to always be the service provider in the provision of services. They
can remain the authority and contract service providers. Municipalities need to
develop creative mechanisms for practical ways to engage service providers to
meet farm dweller needs.
Planning for services in a changing
In KwaZulu-Natal Province alone, there are over 6000 farm
dweller families who have lodged land applications, and who regard themselves as
labour tenants. This excludes the many thousands of restitution claims on farm
lands, and excludes any land being bought or sold for redistribution purposes
under the Land Reform Programme. The majority of these applications and claims
remain unresolved. In addition, many are not
yet identifiable for the purposes of including them
in the planning done in IDPs and SDFs.
This raises the most daunting challenge for municipalities
in attempting to provide basic services to farm dwellers: with the local government's limited resources and
capacity, how is it possible to plan for the unknown? Services delivered
this year could become redundant by the following year if the roll-out of a land
reform application removes or relocates farm dwellers.
What this drives home is the
critical need to ensure that the IDP process is a forward planning one
and not just a list of “backlogs”.Identifying farm dwellers and their needs correctly in the situational
analysis, and incorporating their transformation requirements with regard to
land ownership and access for agriculture etc. into the municipalities'
development visions, will help develop a long-term plan for service
delivery.A review of an IDP process is
covered elsewhere in this publication.
path a municipality chooses – short term solutions to service delivery on farms,
or long term restrategising around commercial agriculture areas, or both – the
choice mustbe made soon.The enactment of laws which give more secure land rights to farm dwellers
will lead to an escalation of conflict on farms. This conflict will arise
because both farm dwellers and current land
owners believe they are the rightful “owners” of the land. Municipalities will
be drawn into solving this conflict and will be judged by the actions taken.
Setting a vision in place that can guide the actions of the municipalities
through these processes of transformation is critical.
that they promised they would do, they have not done - even a single thing. We
were only left on the side of the road - just like that. And we ended up on the
road and dissolved just like the soap. I've stopped."
Thaka game reserve resident who was relocatedthrough land
does not better a person. In fact, it loses sight of the social issues related
to that particular piece of land. The current tenure solutions discriminate
against the poor who are politically and economically
lack of self-representation by farm dwellers generally leads to an assumption
that there are no particular issues that need to be addressed, and it also veils
the reality of the hardships that farm dwellers