The Emergence Of The Landless People’s Movement In SA | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
October 2002
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The new political dispensation in South Africa was the result of a political compromise, which depended on a crucial agreement to leave many of the existing power and wealth relationships intact. The advent of democracy in South Africa presented African people with long awaited political freedom but minimal social and economic liberation. The wealth was to remain in the hands of the few and any attempts by government to reverse the status quo was thwarted by the realities of the harsh global capitalist market system. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) introduced by the ANC government in 1996 was hailed as a propoor social and economic policy geared towards transforming the relations of power in the country. However, this joy was short lived when government succumbed to the global market pressures and adopted the neo-liberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy (GEAR) as their cornerstone economic policy.

The government’s commitment to social and economic transformation is moderated by accommodations of current free market realities. This has resulted in marketoriented policies being developed by government across the spectrum. The civil society response to this blatant betrayal of the socio-economic transformation agenda by government has been very weak. It is only organised labour under the leadership of COSATU that has been vocal about the detrimental affects to the poor of the government's macro-economic approach. COSATU’s stance is compromised by the fact that they are part of the tripartite alliance with ANC, which is the majority party in government responsible for the creation of these neo-liberal policies. The weak political voice of the poor and landless did nothing to prevent the direction that our government took after the 1994 elections. Recently we have observed the emergence of grassroots organisations like Landless People's Movement (LPM), which speaks to the interests of the landless poor in South Africa. The origins of such a movement can be traced back to the pre-1994 period where progressive civil society organisations and the ANC shared a common platform in resisting apartheid by building a cohesive popular movement against oppression and economic exploitation. At that time a solid strategy of tackling local grievances and linking them to highly visible political campaigns developed.

The intention of this case study is to reflect on, and provide an analytical background to, the development of landless people's formations in KwaZulu-Natal with particular focus on the Tenure Security Co-ordinating Committee (TSCC). The case study will focus on the key challenges facing land reform in the context within which the social movement is emerging. It will also critically reflect on AFRA’s view and approach in working with the TSCC and make suggestions on how this work could evolve in future. 

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AFRA is a land rights advocacy non-governmental organisation (NGO) working since 1979 to support marginalised black rural people, with a focus on farm dwellers. We are working towards an inclusive, gender equitable society where rights are valued, realised and protected, essential services are delivered, and land tenure is secure. We work intensively with communities in and around the uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and extensively in offering support and advice.

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