South Africans have reason to be proud of their achievements over the past 18 years. Dating from the election in April 1994, in which our country chose democracy as its badge and a rainbow as its symbol, our people have set aside their previous divisions and wholeheartedly embraced one another, united in a shared vision for national progress on an increasingly competitive international stage. Remarkably, the country has managed to achieve and sustain impressive economic growth.
Through targeted government programmes, the following milestones have been achieved:
There are, however, some significant challenges still facing our country. Progress in urban areas stands in stark contrast to the often extreme levels of poverty many South Africans in rural areas still endure. Social deprivation and underdevelopment continues to haunt too many rural areas. For nearly half a century, the heartless apartheid regime viewed the inhabitants of black rural areas simply as labour reserves, unworthy of development efforts, whereas the post 1994 development paradigm was premised on the assumption that urban development would inevitably cascade to the rural periphery. Consequently, for years rural South Africa saw very little development. This eventually subjected social systems and economic and infrastructural developments to enormous strain as, seeking a better future, many moved from rural areas to cities.
South Africa’s cities have benefited greatly from projects that developed and improved infrastructure and social services. Yet, the same projects placed these areas under the increasing strain of over-urbanisation. Clearly, the development paradigm of the past 18 years, with its emphasis on urban development, in the expectation that this medicine would also heal ailing rural areas, did not do so, and did not produce the economic impact our socio-engineers had envisaged.
Against this background, government reiterated that the fight against poverty remained the most important fight on its agenda. In this spirit, a need for a new economic and developmental trajectory was identified as an urgent priority, and with this objective government identified five strategic areas as priorities over the next five years.
It was recognised afresh that the social and economic transformation of South Africa would be incomplete without the implementation of fundamental interventions to address the challenges faced daily by the majority of people in rural areas. These challenges include limited economic activity, inadequate infrastructure, widespread poverty, high unemployment and unmarketable skills levels.
The Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) was created in 2009, in line with the Polokwane resolutions. For the first time in its history, the country would have a ministry dedicated to the social and economic development of rural South Africa; committed to ensuring that South Africans residing in rural areas enjoyed the same benefits as their urban cousins, so that that they too were covered by the blanket of human rights and basic dignity guaranteed in our Constitution.
Following its establishment, the new ministry immediately embarked on an intensive process to define and conceptualise what rural development should be, and to provide a framework of how it should be implemented. Government’s plan for developing rural areas, the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) is aimed specifically at curing the blight of poverty by the creation of vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities.
To achieve its vision, the new department defined its role and mission as being that of facilitating integrated development and social cohesion through partnerships with all sectors of society. The most important strategy the department pursues to deliver on the CRDP’s strategic objectives is, Agrarian Transformation.
Objectives of the agrarian transformation strategy include (but are not limited to):
The key mandate of the former Department of Land Affairs has been made an integral part of the Agrarian Transformation System, and the programme forms part of a three-legged strategy which aims to ensure that the department achieves its objectives.
The first leg - sustainable land and agrarian transformation: The aim is to increase agricultural production through the optimal and sustainable use of natural resources and appropriate technologies to ensure food security, dignity and improved rural livelihoods. This will subsequently lead to vibrant local economic development.
The second leg - rural development: This focus is on improving both economic infrastructure (such as roads, community gardens, food production, fencing for agriculture, etc.) and social infrastructure (e.g., communal sanitation, and non-farming activities). To successfully achieve this, ownership of processes, projects and programmes is vital.
The third leg - land reform based on restitution, redistribution and land tenure reform: Deliberate and intensified post-settlement support is available to ensure that land transferred to black South Africans contributes to the fight against poverty, by ensuring food security and underpinning economic and social transformation in rural areas. Land reform remains critical to the comprehensive development of South Africa’s rural areas and the government’s recapitalisation and development of land reform projects, currently in distress, bears testimony to this.
Through the implementation of this strategy, the department aims to achieve its goal of social cohesion.
This Mid-term Review highlights the progress of the department in implementing its strategy and achieving its objective.