Speech by Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, G Nkwinti, on the occasion of the debate on State of the Nation Address, National assembly, Parliament
15 February 2010
“Building vibrant and sustainable rural communities”
Honourable president of the republic
Honourable deputy-president of the republic
Honourable ministers and deputy minister
Ladies and gentlemen
Honourable Speaker, on 11 February 2010 the president presented his State of the Nation Address, as part of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of President Nelson Mandela from jail, having served 27 years. During the course of his address he made many significant pronouncements, as some honourable members have, and others will still mention. From where I sat I picked up three of them, namely:
* Re-profiling nation building
* The primacy of service delivery to our people especially the poorest of the poor and,
* The accountability of public representatives and civil servants.
In this regard, the outcome of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is that of “vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities.” This, of course, is our departmental vision, “vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities”. There are four outputs in pursuit of this outcome:
* Sustainable land reform
* Food security for all
* Rural development and
* Job creation, linked to skills training and development.
Further to the significant pronouncements he made, in relation to the government’s strategic focus this and the nest two years of the current medium term expenditure framework, the president provided some detail in terms of what he expects the department to deliver on some indicators of progress or lack thereof:
* Rolling out the pilots to at least 160 wards across the country by 2014
* At least 60 percent of rural households per site meeting their own food requirements by 2014
* Integrating land reform and agricultural support programmes, with a measure of performance being the increase in the number of small scale farmers who graduate into commercial entities by 2014 and
* The creation of jobs and skills training and development opportunities for young people between the ages of 16 to 25 years.
Mr Speaker, given the progress which the three spheres of government, working together have achieved during the first nine months of this administration, there is no reason why the specified, and many other critical, deliverables should not be achieved in the next three years. The detail of what is to be done in pursuit of these deliverables will be elaborated in our budget policy speech.
The budget policy speech will contain a cautionary note, drawn from an interesting book by one Steven R Lewis Junior (1990), The Economics of Apartheid. He posits three general phases of economic and social development of countries across the world and examines South Africa’s performance in comparison. According to him, the third phase is “increasing productivity of land and labour in agriculture”.
In fact, he reckons, one reason why wages increase in the modern sectors is growth in productivity in agriculture in the traditional sectors. That is, wages in the non-agricultural sectors must grow in order to attract people from agricultural areas, where incomes would have gone up. The following passage compares the situation in South Africa during colonial and apartheid years:
“The land which is available to blacks has been restricted, and, for a century, government efforts, critical in virtually all successful agricultural development, have been directed ‘almost exclusively toward white farmers’, with the result that incomes available in the African and Coloured rural areas have remained pitifully low, leaving people no alternative to seeking work in the modern sectors, including white agriculture, at whatever wage available.
“The subsistence sector, as a provider of income for the majority of South Africans, effectively ceased to exist decades ago. The population densities were simply too great to allow any but a fraction of the black population a genuine subsistence output, the rest have had to depend on wage labour in white areas of South Africa, both urban and rural”.
This passage, Mr Speaker, speaks to the historical 87 percent to 13 percent land divide between whites and blacks, respectively. The budget policy speech will dwell deeper and wider on this question, with regard to land reform. Rural development and land reform is, therefore, not just an ordinary programme. It is a post-colonial reconstruction and development programme. It is at the heart of socio-economic transformation where it mattered most, where the most humble and most vulnerable reside, the rural areas and communities.
The current patch work of land legislation, which attempts to address historical disparities in our country, is admirable. It is a product of a particular point in time in our country’s democratisation. But, sadly, Mr Speaker, it is too fragmented to effectively address the centuries’ old land question in South Africa.
In the Green Paper which will soon serve in this house we are opening a debate and discussion on the need to review the current land tenure system as a whole. That is the proverbial elephant in the room, Mr Speaker, which can no longer be avoided. Continuing to avoid this question will not be true to the letter and spirit of the Freedom Charter where it states: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white!
Thank you Mr Speaker.
Issued by: Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
15 February 2010