2nd National Indaba: focus on land, gender and campaigns

Under the theme ‘radical economic transformation through the lens of rural land struggles’ Tshinthsa Amakhaya held its 2nd Indaba of Phase 3 from the 10th to 13th July to unpack current phase’s objectives and to map in detail Phase 3’s meaning and its relation to everyday practice and strategies of the collective.About 60 delegates gathered at Salt Rock, Durban, delegated from affiliated NGOs and community formations, namely:

• Legal Resource Centre (LRC)
• Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA)
• Nkunzi Development Association
• Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE)
• Transkei Land Services Organisation (TRALSO)
• Broader Rural Community (BRC)
• Support Centre for Land Change (SCLC)
• Surplus People Project (SPP)
• Women on Farms Project (WFP)
• Farmer Support Group (FSG)

In her opening remarks Sthandiwe Yeni, National Coordinator of Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA) gave a rationale behind the focus of the Indaba being ‘land, gender and campaigns.’ Yeni said ‘the focus of the 2nd indaba emanates from the 1st indaba where the centering of women in rural transformation, strengthening advocacy and campaigns were on top of the agenda for the new phase of TA. In addition, engagements in all the cluster meetings between April and June highlighted the need for TA to reclaim its space in the national land debates.’

The land question entails questions around ‘what land, to be shared by whom, how, and with what outcomes?’ In an attempt to attend to a land question, Professor Ruth Hall from PLAAS gave a review of policies that were adopted since the dawn of democracy that had the effect on land reform in South Africa. Her presentation, conducted via Skype, outlined:

• Land redistribution
• land restitution
• Land tenure: farm workers and dwellers
• Land tenure reform: communal areas
• New political shifts and proposed laws

There is no existing jurisprudence as far as we are aware related to this right which forms the constitutional basis for land redistribution,” said Hall. She also highlighted that the meaning of section 25(5) has not in the past 20 years been interpreted judicially. Hall concluded by saying, “The extent of elite capture is unknown at a national level, largely due to the absence of any national monitoring and evaluation system.”

Following Hall’s presentation and delegates engagemTo conclude day one’s engagements, particularly a session on land, Yeni ascended the platform using various video scenarios to assist delegates to look into and reflect on possible futures of land reform. “It’s important that we start to explore in details what agrarian transformation should look like given the diverse nature of the rural constituencies supported by TA, e.g. farm dwellers, farm workers and people living on communal land,” Yeni concluded.

The gender topic is centred to TA’s work in its lines of activism being mobilising, organising or campaigns and advocacy. At the beginning of the second day, Carmen Louw of WFP presented research findings titled ‘Women Farmworkers’ Labour Right Violation in Western and Northern Cape’ focusing on marginalisation of women working at the farms.

To attend to a gender question applying a feminist perspective, Dr Asanda Benya from University of Cape Town ran an extensive workshop on how to centre women in TA’s work. Her work explored following themes:

• Glass ceiling
• Time gap and leisure gap
• Women and unions
• Gender stereotypes at work
• Gender violence and sexual violence
• Labour of love vs exploitative work
• Work as liberating and work as exploitative

“Women exploitation and discrimination are often differentiated from how men or ‘workers’ experience oppression,” Benya concluded.

Both the land question and the marginalisation of women were at the centre of this Indaba, Ronald Wesso of Oxfam SA gave a political analysis of how both issues, land and gender, relate to the political state of affairs in South Africa. In his analysis, engaging with the delegates, Wesso cautioned delegates that ‘TA must be active, radical and focus in its approach.’ He concluded by saying that the two conflicts – Radical Economic Transformation and State Capture – defining our political moment, ‘their differences are not that fundamental to have a positive impact on rural livelihood.’

To wrap up day 2, delegates engaged further with Wesso’s analysis.

Following reflections and contemplations in the morning of day 3, NGO staff and local formations’ members split into two working groups that ran parallel:

• ‘Re-thinking our practice: what does phase 3 of TA require of us?’ led by Nomvula Dlamini of Community Development Resource Association. And,
• ‘Organising and mobilising tactics; learning from other activists.” by Bongani Mthembu of South Durban Environmental alliance.

Following these sessions delegates reconvened to discuss campaigns and advocacy work. To understand campaigns, Reinet of Suurbrak shared their experience of their land occupation campaign. And, a Campaigns and Advocacy officer of TA, Sobantu Mzwakali, demonstrated how the coordinating unit will be assisting the collective in strengthening their campaigns and advocacy work. To close the Indaba, Yeni shared the upcoming events or activities that are related to the collective. In her closing remarks, she said:

“It’s important that we start to explore in detail what agrarian transformation should look like given the diverse nature of the rural constituencies supported by TA, e.g. farm dwellers, farm workers and people living on communal land.”

This Indaba became a success through presentations, debates, video screenings, group discussions, reflection-writing, and other forms of engagements.