The Freedom charter provides that “The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It!” and “Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger.”
Land has formed an integral part of the demands for freedom by South Africans for over 100 years and access to land still forms part of our constitution with Section 25(5) providing that:
“The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.”
Therefore it seems safe to assume that people want land and in particular black South Africans want land. This is the assumption that the ANC and hence the government is working off. It is also this assumption that has led to the failure of the land redistribution program in South Africa.
If we are to examine what it is that all people actually want then a good place to start is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In the first instance people need their Physiological needs to be met. This is the basic human requirements of food, water, shelter, sleep, sex etc.
Next human beings need their safety needs to be met, these being Personal security, Financial security, Health and well-being, Safety net against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts etc. then the list goes on to love and belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization.
The point of the above, and there is no need to get into the debate about the various criticisms of the hierarchy theory, is that the demand made for land is actually a demand for a better life for oneself and one’s family.
This is why the various land redistribution and restitution programs in South Africa have failed. Land in 1912 when the ANC was formed or in 1955 when the Freedom charter was adopted is not the same as land in 2012. The reason for this is that the world is not the same. In 1912 access to land meant that you could support your family and you could actually live a pretty good life. Even in 1955, the population was smaller, cars were a luxury and 90% of the goods we see in a household today did not exist. Access to land could give you and your family a pretty good life.
In 2012 this is not the situation any more. Access to land only provides the barest of necessities. Being able to grow a few small crops and own a few cattle or sheep may feed your family, but it will not pay for an education, clothe your family and provide you with a TV, cell phone, microwave, electric stove, computer and all the other goods that are now a necessity to belong to the new world.
Furthermore the people themselves have changed, for one; there are a lot more people it is not so easy to provide for them all on small plots of land. Second urbanisation has resulted in a large population that is unable to support itself though subsistence farming. Third the barter economy that used to exist has now almost completely been replaced by a monetised system.
And most important of all, people, including unsurprisingly black people, do not want to live like their forefathers did 1912. This is why redistributed land is turned into money by being stripped or sold as soon as it can be.
In order for land redistribution to be successful we need to ensure that the beneficiaries of the redistributed land can run a business (albeit a small business) on the land which will be able to support a modern lifestyle. It is difficult enough to make money from farming at the best of times. If you start off with a farm that has been stripped, with business owners with no appropriate farming skills and no money it is virtually impossible to develop a farming business that can support a modern lifestyle that we all aspire to.
Land is a means to an end not an end in itself for the vast majority of South Africans, including black South Africans.
In order to do achieve a successful land redistribution program we need a well-structured and resourced 20 year plan that concentrates on a limited number of long term projects rather than a shotgun approach that tries to do it all at once. If we do not put measures in place to achieve this then access to land will be meaningless.
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