Government too dysfunctional to solve SA's land crisis — activists
The state is too dysfunctional and corrupt to enact progressive laws, let alone to implement existing laws.
This is the conclusion reached by a three-day conference on land, customs, chiefs and mining themed The Failed Promise of Tenure Security: Customary Land Rights and Dispossession which wrapped up on Friday. The conference brought together rural communities, academics, lawyers and activists with some participants joining in virtually.
They now want to be part of the lawmaking process from the start, instead of reactively.
“We demand lawmaking to start with the people. We are always rushing to oppose laws when the drafts come out. We will now focus on writing our own laws proactively in the way we want,” read a joint press statement issued at the end of the gathering.
It stated: “Citizens of rural communities across the country who are fighting for their land rights are outraged at the government’s treatment of them.”
The government and officials tasked with implementation were not only unable to help people to defend their land rights, but often either colluded with chiefs and companies to dispossess communities, it alleged.
“We cannot fix our problems by talking to the state. This is what we have been doing for more than a quarter of a century since the dawn of democracy. This democracy is not working for us if the government does not listen.”
The conference resolved to mobilise more lawyers who understand issues of land and customs, civil society and labour movement allies, academics and other researchers to support the land struggles.
It called on lawyers and specifically law societies in provinces as well as Legal Aid SA to be allies and readily take up matters that affect land rights.
“We want to engage with the major law firms and request them to make public what work they are doing pro bono for us, the people of the Bantustans.”
Speakers charged that dispossession continued in SA, and it happened in many different ways. It was done by the state through its actions or laws and policies, by mining companies, big agribusinesses, municipalities, conservation and through conflict with other communities equally desperate for land.
“Land dispossession still continues. It is not a historical problem. It is a present-day problem.”
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