ECONOMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS ON LAND: South Africa should redistribute land; protect the food economy to rescue itself from crisis levels of unemployment and poverty:
19 June 2013
Today, the 19th of June 2013 marks exactly 100 years since the promulgation of the Natives Land Act, 1913, which basically disposed indigenous Africans of their land, heritage and means of survival. As a way of pushing indigenous Africans to the nascent industries and Mining sector, the colonial repressive and racist regime disposed Africans of their land, and allocated the land white farmers, and did so without any payment. Only 13% of the land was left to the Africans, whilst white minority were allocated the remaining 87% of South Africa’s land.
100 Years later, the land is still in the hands of white minorities who benefited from the 1913 Natives Land Act. 100 Years later, the government of South Africa has failed to use almost 20 years of democratic dispensation to address and redress the land question. Our people remain in squatter camps, informal settlements, and non-arable rural communities with no forms of subsistence because they do not have access to land.
As we observe these painful realities, all scientific economic commentators and observers agree that South Africa is confronted with what is still going to be the deepest economic crisis since 1994. Unemployment levels at 36% will worsen, with no immediate possibility recovering anytime soon, economic growth for the first quarter of 2013 at 0.9%, and the currency is depreciating alongside decline of key commodity prices. Despite making other reactionary observations and prescriptions, the June 1st to 7th 2013 The Economist edition observes that “as most of Africa begins to prosper, the continent biggest economy [South Africa] is faltering”.
Echoing this view, the 7th to 12th June edition of the Financial Mail says, “Earlier in the year, the FM asked whether South Africa was on a slippery slope to becoming a sub-investment country. We concluded that though it would take deterioration over several years for SA to move from investment grade to speculative grade,...the country faced a slow grinding descent from mediocrity to marginalisation – or even worse. But though we were decidedly bearish, we didn’t expect things to unravel this quickly”. The FM then proceeds to quote Pan African Capital Holdings CE Iraj Abedian who correctly says, “The South African economy hasn’t been in such a rudderless state since 1994”.
Now even to those of us (Economic Freedom Fighters) who have lost confidence in the current leadership of the South African government due to its directionlessness, these economic realities are worrying factors and require all of us to provide solutions and propositions on what it to be done. Without pejoratives, it is perhaps important to once again call the South African government to pay particular attention to South Africa’s food economy as part of the many solutions that are needed to rescue SA from the current crisis.
Food production, packaging, transportation, marketing, advertising, retail, and trade should constitute one of South Africa’s biggest economic sectors. With a growing global population, and growing capacity of Africans to buy food, South Africa needs to dynamically product South Africa’s agricultural outputs through provision of subsidies to small scale farmers, and opening packaging, retail opportunities for these farmers. The crisis faced by small scale black chicken farmers in South Africa leads to a situation wherein they only contribute less than 30 million chickens of the 1 billion produced in South Africa annually. This amongst other things is due to the fact that there is not even a single black chicken farmer who has access to chicken feed at large scale, nor chicken medication, nor abattoirs to slaughter and package chicken for retail and trade.
The South African government should in this particular instance develop a thoroughgoing structural and sustainable support mechanism for small scale chicken farmers across South Africa, and improve quality assurance to address issues of brining. This can substantially assist small scale chicken farmers to penetrate the formal retail markets and international trade, also avoiding the unnecessary importation of chicken from Brazil, US and European Union. How South Africa, with good temperature and weather predictability in most parts of its regions, imports hundreds of millions of chicken escapes one’s imagination.
A structured State support and agricultural protection mechanism can be applied to other food products, including beef production and processing and other meats, fruits, maize, and other essential food items produced by small scale farmers. To boost sustainable demand domestically, the South African government should pass legislation compelling that all the food bought by Government for hospitals, schools, prisons, etc. should be sourced from small food producers. This in itself will create sustainable food economic activity, and inspire many young people to go into food production because there will be income and financial benefits to boost other economic activities out of it. The economy of food production needs well structured protection mechanisms and subsidies in order to protect jobs and safeguard food security, and most developing nations and developed are doing it.
Recently, the European Union has decreed what substantially leave a huge dent on Citrus sector of the South African food economy. In a bid to safeguard their jobs and economic activity in the citrus sector, the EU has decided to limit imports of citrus products, 60% of which come from South Africa. Such will lead to declining jobs in the citrus sector, worsening the unemployment crisis, despite the fact that agriculture had gained some 40 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2013. What the EU is doing is protectionism, which since the global financial crisis, is a norm in all economies who initially forced SA to loosen protection through World Trade Organisation regulations.
Brazil, which South Africa oddly believes is economically in the same League as our economy took these giant steps to become truly a BRIC country, characterised by Jim O’Neill to refer to the “four rapidly developing countries that have come to symbolise the shift in global economic power away from the developed Group of 7 economies”, which are Brazil, Russia, China and India.
While wrongly attributing this rapid growth and development of agriculture and food economy of Brazil to free-trade, The Economist in August 2010 correctly noted that, “The increase in Brazil's farm production has been stunning. Between 1996 and 2006 the total value of the country's crops rose from 23 billion reais ($23 billion) to 108 billion reais, or 365%. Brazil increased its beef exports tenfold in a decade, overtaking Australia as the world's largest exporter. It has the world's largest cattle herd after India's. It is also the world's largest exporter of poultry, sugar cane and ethanol. Since 1990 its soyabean output has risen from barely 15m tonnes to over 60m. Brazil accounts for about a third of world soyabean exports, second only to America. In 1994 Brazil's soyabean exports were one-seventh of America's; now they are six-sevenths. Moreover, Brazil supplies a quarter of the world's soyabean trade on just 6% of the country's arable land”.
With a clearly defined and well structured mechanism, South Africa, which is oddly a food importer, can realise the development of the food economy in a manner that exceeds Brazil’s. This will add to creation to sustainable jobs, not the kind of short-term jobs created through infrastructure development. This will, of course, require land reform to be expedited and water supplies guaranteed for sustainability of the this important sector of the economy.
Whether South Africa will take this route remains a necessary question, because Government Securocrats and Policy Makers are busy imposing the National Development Plan (NDP) on society, which does not say anything cogently and substantially coherent on the food economy. South Africa needs to break free from neo-liberal chains of free-trade on agriculture, because even when this was fashionable, the proponents of free-markets and free-trade did not adhere to any of the free agricultural trade they pushed down developing nations’ throats through the World Trade Organisation.
This is one of the many coherent progressive interventions from Economic Freedom Fighters, which should be made as soon as yesterday in order to save millions of lives from the strains of joblessness, unemployment and poverty that will engulf our country for a considerable amount of time. The food economy will save South Africa’s social ills because, unlike other sectors, it is not heavily affected by the global financial crisis because food demand and consumption is essential and constant.
For the food economy to save many South Africans, LAND SHOULD BE SHARED AMONG THOSE WHO WORK IT, and immediate measures to realise this should be put in place.
Our immediate demands, which will be presented to the people of South Africa as political deliverables include:
1. Political will and determination to expropriate land without compensation.
2. Enactment of a coherent, decisive and cogent Act of Parliament that will give effect to the Constitution’s Expropriation Clause for public purpose and in public’s interest.
3. Immediate rising of tariffs for all food imports with the aim of subsidising small scale agriculture for food production.
4. “Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis should be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger” as called for in the Freedom Charter.
5. “The state should help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers” as called for in the Freedom Charter.
These are demands consistent with the Freedom Charter’s clarion call that “The land shall be shared among those who work it”, and a clarion call that should be given practical meaning as soon as possible.
ISSUED BY ECONOMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS