IFP Comments on International Rural Women’s Day

IFP COMMENTS ON INTERNATIONAL RURAL WOMENS DAY (PREMIER’S PLANS AND PROGRESS TOWARDS ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN’S ACCESS TO LAND AND PARTICIPATION IN AGRICULTURE AND RURAL ECONOMIES)

BY
HON. T.P. MADLOPHA-MTHETHWA, MPL
KZN LEGISLATURE, VIRTUAL SITTING, 15 OCTOBER 2020

Hon. Speaker,

It is very unfortunate that we are here again today, listening to more empty promises to rural women who continue to suffer economic and social exclusion, which have for years undermined their capacity to develop and grow themselves in many ways.

It has been over 26 years of empty promises from the ruling government to rural women and rural communities, who are at the core of triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The ruling government knows that women make up the majority of the rural population and labour force in  commercial farming, yet they are deprived of land ownership to this day. It has even failed to protect these rural women against brutal and unfair  treatment they receive from some of the farmers because the dignity of a rural woman has never been respected by the ruling  government. They are only remembered when it’s time for elections.

It is an undisputed, well-documented fact that the government of the day’s land reform programme has failed all women of South Africa, especially rural black women. Yet most rural women depend on land and informal sector for a living to provide food for their families. The majority of households are headed by poor women in our country, yet only men have been major beneficiaries of government’s land reform programme. Women continue to be short-changed by a system that is in dire need of transformation.

It is therefore a fact that the government’s plan to combat the plight of women’s landlessness has borne invisible fruits so far.  Even research-based evidence shows that women in South Africa still carry the cost of oppression; they are still excluded and marginalised by the land reform programme – with women constituting less than a quarter of land beneficiaries in the whole country.

Land reform policies have failed to make rural women champion production of their own food, but rather have made them dependent on social grants and donations from the government. This dependency culture has totally crippled our women.

In the past, rural women have always been able to produce food to feed their families and sell, which in turn contributed to the protection of food security, and seizing economic opportunities in the informal sector. It does not help that Covid-19 has also  made things worse for rural women, who depend in the informal sector for a living, as it affected their ability to earn a living, thanks to social distancing and the ban on non-essential commerce.

Moreover, the ruling government even lacks a plan to accommodate rural women who migrate to towns and cities to seek employment opportunities. Instead, they are treated like foreigners in their own country. Many are forced to converge in informal settlements, without proper basic services such as ablution facilities, water and electricity.

IFP RESOLUTIONS ON ACCESS TO LAND FOR WOMEN

  • The IFP understands that the land issue carries with it the promise of healing the wounds of the past for rural women. That land has social, spiritual and economic value for rural women, and has the potential to be the foundation of the renewed economy, which rural communities so critically need today.
  • It is with this understanding that the IFP believes that the Government must allocate all unused land that is in the hands of the State, to assist poor rural women, and rural communities as a whole.

IFP believes that there is a need for the Premier to commission a full-scale land audit to officially determine who owns what. Those findings should help with redistributing land to rural women, and to support their community projects to farm commercially.

  • The IFP also believes that government must allocate specific support for modern agricultural and other developmental initiatives, to redress imbalances of the past and monitor this support, to ensure that corrupt and greedy individuals do not misuse resources for themselves and their cronies.

We have, for years, watched the ANC comrades hogging state resources meant to assist poor communities in rural areas; as a result very few communities have had access to any assistance from state Departments, such as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Even previous audit reports have revealed that many times, funding and resources never reach intended beneficiaries in this Province, but go to a select group of politically-connected individuals. As long as government programmes continue to be politicised in this Province, rural women will continue to be excluded and marginalised in the hands of the ruling party.

  • The IFP have also, for years, urged the ruling government to establish training infrastructure by introducing agricultural science at school level, and reopening agricultural training colleges in all municipalities where youth will be trained in farming, but this is not happening to date.
  • The IFP also believe that the government must finalise outstanding land claims under a strict monitoring and evaluation programme. We know that greedy, politically-connected hyenas have been abusing this programme to benefit themselves and their comrades, as research shows that dividends of the country’s biggest land claim settlements are benefiting less than a third of intended recipients and beneficiaries. They are running this programme like their own spaza shop. A lot must be done to monitor this programme. When re-opening land claims, the window for further applications and claims should focus on rural women and rural communities.
  • The IFP also calls for land expropriation with compensation. Expropriated land should be prioritised for disadvantaged groups, such as women and youth.
  • The IFP advocates for building trust and common purpose amongst all land users: traditional leaders, claimants, tenants, farm workers, farm owners and government. As a result, we believe that the administration of communal land remain should in the hands of the people, under the custodianship of traditional leadership, with the provincial governments providing support to traditional leaders and emerging rural women farmers, and elevating them to a state of commercial farming.
  • The IFP urges the government to also deal with the growing number of farm murders, which discourage established farmers from continuing to farm, and many rural women lose their jobs in the process.
  • Small rural emerging farmers should be supported and mentored to plan, manage, and access finance for their farms.
  • Help our rural women by promoting communal economies through self-help and self-reliance programmes and projects.
  • The IFP urges rural women to change their status quo. South African rural women voters have a chance to fix the rhetoric in the next elections, they have the power, they just need to use it to fire a leadership that is dishonest, unreliable and uncaring: a leadership that only cares about votes but fails to administer their basic rights, which include land and water.

The IFP leadership is the leadership that knows how to get the land working. We know what needs to be done, and how to do it.

  • We encourage subsistence farming, where each family owns one garden to feed their family. We also encourage women to start agricultural co-operatives within rural communities, and provide them with equipment, seeds, fertilizer and training to cultivate these lands.
  • We in the IFP recognise all farmers, including white, commercial farmers as citizens with rights and obligations to their land. We therefore encourage farmers to stay and help grow our country’s economy, and we prioritise their safety.
  • We also seek to protect farmworkers and tenants from evictions. A new farmer must find alternative residential rights at their own expense. We believe that government should encourage partnerships and mentorships with experienced farmers to attract and train new farmers, and to develop supporting industries, such as transport services.
  • Lastly, the IFP sees value in building high-density housing for city shack dwellers that is close to places of employment. The dignity of black rural women in cities must be prioritised because we promote and preserve the moral fibre and dignity of our society.

Lastly, the IFP wishes to remind the government of the day that history will judge its governance harshly for failing to prioritise, empower and protect women in this country.

I thank you.