Many benefit from SA’s land redistribution plan
We are again commemorating Youth Month, remembering those who were at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid. When freedom beckoned, the youth faced death and bullets, and did not flinch.
As we commemorate this month, we need to be mindful that it is also National Environmental Month and that most farm evictions happen during June.
Land reform has become a key priority in post-apartheid South Africa. Post-1994 market liberalisation has prompted rapid agro-industrialisation. This has created new opportunities and challenges for smallholder farmers. Agro-industrialisation has ensured a stronger agricultural industry, with farmers and agribusiness being able to position themselves as players in a globally competitive environment. However, it has also increased the gap between the two kinds of agriculture.
Emerging farmers’ exclusion from dynamic markets emanates from current economic and historical perspectives; they are neither economically efficient in their production systems for successful integration into mainstream agribusiness nor were they politically empowered in the past to commercialise their production. There are high expectations of the potential of the government, in partnership with the private sector, to enable emerging farmers to integrate into mainstream agribusiness.
The empowerment initiatives have been less smooth and less rapid than expected, thus little progress has been achieved in transforming smallholder agriculture. This has been aggravated by the transformation of most value chains. For example, through the transformation from local procurement to more centralised, or contractual, systems which hamper smaller farmers’ capacity to participate in the modern supply chains. This is due to a number of factors, which include the general inability of smallholders to attain quality, safety, quantity and consistency in their supplies.
However, there has been progress in the past 20 years. Between 1994 and the 2013, 4 860 farms have been transferred to black people and communities through the land redistribution programme – more than 4 million hectares. Almost a quarter of a million people have benefited – of this more than 50 000 women, 32 000 young people and 674 people with a disability.
In terms of development, 1 351 farms have been recapitalised and over 7 400 jobs created.
The total investment by the state since the inception of the Risk Evaluation/Corrective Action Programme is R2.14 billion.
These investments assist emerging farmers with comprehensive support through infrastructure development, acquisition of mechanisation, entrepreneurial aid, production inputs, market access and integrating into the value chain over a five-year period. And all this is made possible through partnerships with commercial farmers.
Nuclear power safer than organic farming
Dr Yvette Abrahams, who works in the department of women and gender studies at University of the Western Cape and with Electricity Governance Initiative South Africa, worries about the costs of nuclear power and tells us an “organic farmer and poet” worries about its safety (“Long time frames and dodgy numbers justify worry about nuclear power’s cost”, Business Report, June 10).
This is ironic because nuclear power not only has the best record of any energy source, including solar and wind, but is safer than organic farming. In March 2011, following a gigantic earthquake and tsunami, there was the worst nuclear accident in the last 24 years at Fukushima. The number of deaths from its radiation was zero. The number of likely deaths in the future is zero. Nobody was killed or injured by the radiation.
In April 2011, deadly bacteria from an organic farm in Bienenbüttel, Germany, infected sprouting vegetables. From eating them, 53 people died, 3 950 were harmed and hundreds will be on dialysis for the rest of their lives. This single organic farm accident killed and injured far more people than all the nuclear power accidents in the Western world put together in all its 60-year history.
Instead of worrying about the non-existent danger of radiation from Koeberg, Abrahams should be urging a peer-reviewed, independently funded study of organic farms in the Western Cape.
A number of independent studies has shown no increase of cancers around nuclear facilities around the world. The extra radiation you would get by moving from Cape Town to Paarl is thousands of times greater than that if you moved from Cape Town to Koeberg. Paarl’s radiation comes from the uranium (half-life: 4 500 000 000 years) and thorium (half-life: 14 000 000 000 years) in its granite. But Paarl’s radiation is much too low to cause any harm whatsoever. The wastes from solar, wind and coal include toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic, which remain dangerous forever.
Nuclear power is often the cheapest source of electricity. Wind and solar for grid electricity are staggeringly expensive. Germany, in 2011, in a fit of madness decided to phase out clean, safe, cheap, reliable nuclear power and replace it with expensive, unreliable wind and solar.
The result has been soaring electricity prices, black-outs and electricity failures, rising pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions. The only beneficiary of this “green” energy has been the rich. The poor have suffered because of it.
Time to reinforce dti’s ‘buy local’ covenant
I refer to “Davies puts teeth in pact to buy local goods”, (Business Report, June 6).
Rob Davies, head of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), is correct in advocating that we should support manufacturing industries in South Africa, in that it creates employment, creates a skills base, and indirectly provides more revenue for the state. I’d support him with his vision of making it compulsory for departments to only purchase items made here and to encourage others to do the same.
However, it is apparent that the dti is trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted, in that it has become more difficult to find items that are made in South Africa. A large percentage of goods in South African shops are made in the Far East and, in particular, China.
The export of thousands of tons of coal and iron every month exacerbates the situation. Why are we not using our abundance of raw materials to turn South Africa into a major manufacturing country? The dti needs to move fast on this issue. A kibbutz-type system, which has worked so well in Israel, should be introduced to encourage the unemployed so they may be taught productive skills.
One day, the world, including South Africa, will wake up and realise that China is the only country that has the skills levels and machinery to manufacture anything and everything. China will hold the world to ransom. The dti needs greater vision; it is already 20 years behind.
How can ANC blame white foreigners?
It is not white foreigners but 70 000 workers who are transforming wage negotiations on South Africa’s mines.
The board of the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) is alarmed by the statements of Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general, attributing the ongoing strike by platinum miners to “white foreigners” representing foreign interests.
Regardless of who these unnamed people might be (though most likely prompted by the AIDC’s technical support to Amcu, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) Mantshe owes it to the people of South Africa to: (1) name these foreign interests; (2) demonstrate the nature of their interference; and (3) explain the relevance of these individuals’ whiteness. Unless he is able to do this, he stands condemned for his opportunistic use of blatant racism and xenophobia.
During the communist witch-hunt in the US during the 1950s and ‘60s, many non-communists responded to accusations of being “left-leaning” by disputing the allegations. Implicit in this response was that it was unlawful or “un-American” to be a communist. The AIDC will not respond to the accuracy of its director being a foreigner, lest it give credence to the idea that there is something untoward in being a foreigner. (Mantashe is well advised to question the intelligence of the intelligence service he relies on.)
It is now time for the ANC to say that the liberation of South Africa from apartheid does not mean the substitution of apartheid’s “swaart gevaar” with the ANC’s “white foreign rooi gevaar”.
This is the umpteenth occasion that Mantashe has sought mischievously and mistakenly to blame “white foreigners” for the deep-seated economic and social factors behind the longest strike in South Africa’s mining history. In so doing, he turns his back on what once was a key component of the ANC’s constituency.
More alarming is the extreme hostility with which the ANC regards one of the most important working class struggles of the 21st century. In the context of a globalising capital and the consequent pressure this has put on wages worldwide, the struggle for a living wage represents an important fight back – R12 500 is no ordinary demand. It represents an attempt to win back the wage share that has been falling rapidly in mining and the economy as a whole.
The AIDC stands for a wage-led sustainable development path. It is in the context of research we have done on strategies for realising such a path that Amcu engaged our services – free. We provide technical support in negotiations, help with number crunching and interpreting offers made by employers. Basic principles of solidarity formed part of our decision to assist. It is these principles of solidarity for social justice that provided international support for the struggle against apartheid, and for the labour movement specifically. Internationalists of all hues joined this struggle and continue to do so, whether it is for platinum mineworkers, farmworkers or those struggling for land.
Moreover, it is government policy in attracting foreign investment and reinforcing foreign ownership of the mining industry that should be of major concern to the ruling party. The repatriation of profits and dividends, with a host of investor-friendly policies, has destabilised and undermined our national and popular sovereignty.
International solidarity and empathy for people’s struggles and movements will continue in post-apartheid South Africa precisely because of continuing inequality, mass unemployment and dispossession.
Chair, the AIDC Board, Cape Town