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Land/2 – Vision for South Africa

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This is part two of a longer article, see part 1 here.

Land is recognized not as a mere commodity but as our mother, the locus of life, God’s gift to all, of which we are responsible custodians. The land is used in a respectful and caring way, for present and future generations. The quality of life of all, including rural people, is good. The rural local economy is flourishing and integral to the broader economy, and is providing attractive opportunities for young people. All people (especially those marginalized and vulnerable) have access to adequate land for housing, grazing and cropping. This is accompanied by access to safe and affordable water, to other basic services such as electricity, sanitation, health and educational facilities (schools), to secure rights and to institutions to validate and enforce all the above mentioned rights.
lan5bThere is a diversity of farming in terms of scale, methods, crops and organizational structure. Government policy gives priority to rural development, and supports a variety of agricultural models and tenure arrangements. In the urban areas, adequate, safe and spacious houses and plots that allow for food gardens are available and provided. Government continues to support people to access land and secure their tenure. Government supports small scale farmers through easily accessible material support, and appropriate training, extension and subsidy schemes.
Land plays a role in integrating different sectors (rich & poor, male, female & youth) and communities (black and white, urban, rural) into a cohesive and prosperous society, through progressive spatial planning. Commercial farmers and the private sector actively support agrarian transformation and cooperate with small scale producers. Some large scale owners even share parts of their land as an act of faith. Small scale farmers have access to existing market structures as well as to new market channels.
Strong, unified social movements give effective voice to rural people’s interests where necessary. Communities are organized, operate in a democratic, responsible and consultative manner, and implement their own development initiatives.

What has worked well thus far?
* Most discriminatory laws have been revoked and new laws, policies and programmes enabling land redistribution have been put in place. The latter raised awareness of the right of black people to own land.
* Laws have been introduced that can be called on to protect vulnerable people from arbitrary evictions.
* Many people have benefited from the land reform programmes such as restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. There are now more black farmers than was the case previously.
* Rural development is a high priority for government and society.
* Women do now assert their land and housing rights and these are more often recognized than before (gender discrimination has been reduced).
What needs to be done differently?
* Promote an understanding of land seen not merely as a commodity but as our mother.
* People’s link to the land should be more recognized by legislation and the courts.
* Greater promotion and protection of the right of all people to have secure land tenure.
* An independent Ombudsman body should be established to oversee expropriation to ensure that it benefits the poor and is fair to the former owners.
* In redistribution, farm size should be appropriate to enable a sustainable livelihood for the occupants as part of the broader development project of society.
* Thelan6bre is a need for agricultural and economic policies and programmes to build skills and enable access to markets and finance for land reform beneficiaries. Particular support should be provided for subsistence farming.
* There is a need for much greater promotion, especially amongst the youth, of farming as a positive vocation, to stem the great numbers leaving the rural areas and to ensure the sustainability of the country’s future food security.
* A ceiling should be placed on how much land can be owned by an individual and a corporation.
* The protection of water sources, as well as the securing of clean and affordable water, for both agriculture and household consumption needs to be enacted and enforced through strict laws and regulations.
* Those in the lower income sector of the society should become more and more involved in decision-making, especially at the local level.
These changes can be effected through advocacy for these ideals, developing good practice models of land development, developing a synergy among land organizations and other stakeholders, the mobilization of landless people.
The Church’s role is always to be in solidarity with the poor. Thus, the formulation of responses to issues of land reform needs to be underpinned by a preferential option for the poor. This can be done by recalling and promoting the rich theology and social philosophy of the land in our Church’s Social Teachings and ensuring that the poor are involved in all matters that concern them in line with the principle of subsidiarity and working for the common good. The Church can also help offering training and mentoring to the poor so that they can assert themselves more effectively

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