Amandla! Forums had an important discussion around the question of agrarian reform in South Africa on the 24 August 2016.
Amandla organised this discussion following the debate between Professor Ben Cousins and EFF Researcher Lubabalo Ntsholo held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Amandla felt that it is important to bring the debate to life, moving it from the campus to the community. The meeting was well attended with more that 60 people participating in the debate.
Ben Cousins started of by describing the South African context where 60% of the land is not good for crop production because it receives less than 600mm of rain per annum. Of the potentially arable land only 10% is irrigated. This means that from the onset we face severe challenges.
For Ben Cousins currently the producers in the commercial farming sector can be divided into two components: the top 20% of commercial farmers – these farmers are productive and produce approximately 80% of the food in South Africa, whilst the other 80% of commercial farms are ineffective and inefficient.
Given this scenario Cousins offers up what he calls a pragmatic approach for land redistribution. Saying that it is those inefficient and ineffective farms that should be redistributed to approximately 200 000 black small-scale commercial (capitalist) farmers. Leaving the top 20% of commercial farms intact for the next 20 years because of our dependency on them for food production and agricultural exports.
Cousins feels that this would form part of a short-term and medium-term strategy aimed at developing small-scale farming. Forming part of a longer term strategy: the transition towards an alternative form of agricultural production.
Lubabalo Ntsholo asserted that the issues of land and agrarian reform are issues of justice and human rights. He pointed out that focussing on agricultural exports should not be our priority, instead our focus ought to be on food sovereignty and food security.
He was not convinced by Ben Cousins that the top 20% of commercial farms should remain intact. This is because, unless we address the entire structure of the agricultural system – inequality within the agricultural sector would persist.
This is not surprising considering the top 20% of agricultural producers (made up of 5 big companies) will have economies of scale, currently own the value chains and have monopoly in the market. Therefore, it is essential to dismantle and deconstruct the entire agrarian sector.
This discussion is part of an on-going debate, and should be seen as part of the process. These speakers have been thinking about the issue of land and agrarian reform and were kind enough to share their insights. This does not mean that they are the authority on the issue, nor does it mean that we have to agree with them. However, it is essential that we have these conversations and that we do something about it. The issue of land redistribution and how we organise production in the agrarian sector will remain a contentious issue until we see real transformation.
The evening also gave us an opportunity to hear from some workers from the Robertson Winery and from the CSAAWU (farm worker union in Western Cape) leadership.
They went on strike against the Robertson Winery earlier today and this one an opportunity for them to reflect. They shared why they went on strike, what their demands are and what kind of support they need.
The workers from Roberston Winery, currently paid approximately R115 per day, are resolute and clear, they do not want an increase of R8,80, they want enough money to live. They demand a living wage, and they will continue fighting until they get what they deserve.
On a positive note, on the night we were able to raise over R3000, small contribution to support the workers on strike from the generous people who attended the meeting.
However, the most effective way of showing our support for the workers and outrage is to boycott all Robertson Winery wines. Look for the label – and then buy something else.