LAND REFORM AT THE CROSSROADS

Calls for the state driven land reform are a mere function of failed ideas and lacks critical elements of engagement. Zimbabwe and Kenya stood prominently as historical examples of failed state intervention while South Africa continues to prophesize them. State driven land reform can only be possible in a true developmental state.  So far South Africa does not have an iota of the characteristics of a developmental state as stated by the Chalmers who came with the concept and of its contemporary exponent Adrian Leftwich. A developmental state based on the developmental objective by all political players and civil society, a macro economic agenda that defines priorities and trade offs within the constraints imposed by the local and global realities. In addition to these, it requires an active civil society that is competent and capable in delivering on the mandate coupled with an institutional framework that is delinked from the party political agendas.

At this point, there is no indication or any body language that suggests there is a state capacity and leadership to deliver sustainable land reform even at the current pitiful levels of achievement, let alone at levels needed. Popular based rural revolution is the most desirable programme to deliver our people from the pangs of poverty and human degradation and social injustices. Indeed, the collusion between government and mining capital alone guarantees pro elites as opposed to pro poor land programme.

The land question cannot be resolved through the barrel of the market. The step to sustained development of our country is through a successful subsistence agriculture coupled with rural education and rural infrastructure.  Our current neo-colonial land regime cannot be reformed. It must be completely replaced with a modern popular driven land justice rural revolution. Our collective efforts have achieved at most cosmetic change that in reality entrenches and extends the colonial order rather than transform it. It has become an enduring and terrible tragedy for those living in the outskirts of the cities and in the rural areas and it continues to unfold through every nook and cranny of our countryside.  Indeed, successful land reform comes at a heavy price.

The rural revolution is about the people calling government, captains of the industry, landowners and organs of civil society to negotiate and dialogue a People’s Contract for the Land. We do not need government to lead, but to respond. The people must lead. Without stabilizing rural society through rural revolution, you can expect an even greater mass migration of developing farmers to the cities. You could say it is a disaster waiting to happen.

By Congress Mahlangu

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