On the 28th November to 1st December, Tshintsha Amakhaya partners and constituencies had a political school held at Khwa Ttu – San culture and education centre –  reflecting on crises facing land reform and its apparent failure to bring about a desirable redress and to interrogate civil society and rural voice in addressing this apparent failure.

A rationale behind the political school was that South Africa’s land reform is an upheaval, it is in limbo.  For its preceding 23 years, it has botched bleakly to redress historical injustices of land dispossession. For this apparent reason, the school was aimed at reflecting on crises facing land reform and its apparent failure to bring about a desirable redress. The gathering further interrogated civil society’s involvement and rural voice in addressing this catastrophe.

‘This lack of a clear vision for addressing the land question in SA has been demonstrated in all the cluster meetings including the national indaba in July. One of the expected outcomes for Phase 3 is a national campaign on one issue that affects all members of TA i.e. the issue of land. The question of land is not only a strategic issue for TA to campaign about, but it is a hot political issue in SA at the moment and this provides an opportunity for TA to come out strongly and use this political moment. In order to embark on a national campaign for land and agrarian transformation in South Africa, we need to build our critical consciousness and begin to explore alternatives. So far there is a lack of critical consciousness and sound knowledge of alternatives. In addition, TA has been invisible when it comes to contributing to the public debates on the land question, and we hope to use the political schools starting with the upcoming one and cluster dialogues to help build this capacity,’ the concept note attached with an invitation to the school provided a clear rationale behind the school.

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On the first day of the school, Prof Ruth Hall of Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) outlined historical accounts that shaped the land question of modern South Africa. She gave a thorough review of the historical account of the formation of the South African agrarian structure looking at political, social and economic dimensions – history of the conditions that led to the land dispossession in the first place.

Becoming popular in TA’s gatherings, following questions were explored: who should get the land? For what purpose? Under what terms? Responding to these, participants gave a contemporary response paying attention to failures of land reform, the increasing role of agribusiness, capital and markets and what are the implications for farm workers, dwellers and small-scale farmers. Against this background, they then explored what kind of land and agrarian changes would give them results that want to see. For this exercise, drawing on examples from other countries they created their own scenarios.

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The second and the third day of the school, led by Leonard Gentle, focused on interrogating level of activism with participants in relation to structural changes affecting grassroots activism, from the roles of NGOs and their shaping, structures of capital such as banks’ role on purchasing and leasing out land to contemporary mobilizing and organizing grounds that has shifted from the old anti-apartheid vanguard – drawing from popular movement like the #FeesMustFall.

To ignite the spirit of activism, Gentle requested that each activist reflects on pressing issues from constituencies they reside from. And, how have they addressed challenges in the past and what could be learned and bought to TA’s activism? In so doing, he addressed that campaigns should be about urgent issues and not complex for the ordinary to relate with.

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The last day of the school titled ‘the general assembly’ – though it started on the sad tone (to be stipulated later in the report) – connected information disseminated and digested in the last three days and connecting it with an ongoing activism of TA, being campaigns, research or dialogues. This lead to the scrutiny of roles from the coordinating unit, NGO staff and community constituencies on what they bring to and take from TA.

Political schools scheduled for 2018, would build on the contents and outcomes of the debates and discussions from this particular school.

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