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Rural activists to launch Eastern Cape Rural Activist Rural Development Programme

Jan 18, 2019

From Friday to next week Thursday, 80 activists from 17 rural people’s movements across the Eastern Cape will gather at the inaugural activist school to initiate and launch the Eastern Cape Rural Activist Rural Development Programme.

"This is a historic initiative driven by rural people themselves through and their nascent fighting movements and ongoing local struggles," said the programme's Mazibuko Jara.

"The school is jointly organised by the Border Rural Committee (based in East London), Cala University Students’Association (based in Cala), Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda rural movement (based in Keiskammahoek) & the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education (a national activist education centre based in Cape Town)."

He said that the school will be addressed by Professors Lungisile Ntsebeza, Nomalanga Mkhize, and Somadoda Fikeni as well as Nolundi Luwaya, who directs the University of Cape Town’s Land and Accountability Research Centre.

"Also in attendance will be Lubabalo Ntsholo, who is the lead research on land and rural issues for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Parliament; Dr. Fani Ncapayi of the Inyanda National Land Movement, Sithandiwe Yeni of the Tshintsha Amakhaya (a national network of land and rural NGOs); Mike Lewis and Russell Grinker, who are policy analysts with the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council as well as speakers from the Stop the Bantustans Bill Campaign and the provincial government’s Department of Agrarian Reform and Rural Development," Jara said.

"The school is held at the extreme height of the unfolding Xolobeni people’s struggle against mining imposed from above by the South African government at the behest of the interests of greedy mining capitalists.

"As the organisers of the school, we salute the gallant people of Xolobeni and the fighting Amadiba Crisis Committee for their resolute, sustained and principled action in defence of the land, people-driven development from below, democratic customary rights and ecological sustainability.

"We will use the school to learn more about the Xolobeni struggle."

'Many rural communities face similar issues as those at Xolobeni'

Jara said that from Xolobeni to thousands of other rural locations across our country, rural people are not happy about their dire conditions of landlessness, poverty, unemployment and poor service delivery.

"As the victorious court cases taken up by the rural people of Cala, Amahlathi, Pilanesberg (in the North West province), Makhasaneni (in the KwaZulu-Natal province) and elsewhere show, rural people are not waiting for government: siyaqhuba rhulumente, asimanga," he described.

"It is regrettable that we as rural people have to revert to the courts to advance and claim their constitutional rights in particular the right to be heard and to choose who their leaders should be.

"As the Xolobeni struggle shows, the already insecure land rights of rural people in South Africa are under renewed threat under a government that has failed to redistribute land and that is unashamedly introducing new laws and policies that extend inordinate powers over land, development, rural governance and the administration of justice to unelected, and often unaccountable, traditional leaders."

Jara said that it is such powers "that strengthen the brutal hand of those traditional leaders, who choose to be unaccountable as we saw in the tragic violation of rural people’s rights by King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo".

"It is regrettable that the focus of most public comment has falsely phrased the issue on King Dalindyebo’s conviction and imprisonmentas being about the triumph of Roman-Dutch law over African customary law," he added.

"This approach completely ignores the violated families and the need to properly democratise rural governance from below.

"From the foregoing, this school is a loud and clear statement to government: No more oppression and exploitation of rural people! We shall stand up and fight for our land and rights! Strengthened by the activist school, we shall mobilise rural people to stop the unconstitutional Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill (TKLB) which was recently passed by Parliament and the National Council of Provinces.

"Also, this historic activist school is held some seven weeks after Parliament adopted the Constitutional Review Committee’s report which recommended the amendment of Section 25 of the South African Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

"Whilst many of the organisations to take part in the school endorse the envisaged constitutional amendment we are concerned that the final outcome may be used to redistribute and privatise land to a new black elite."

School to strengthen Eastern Cape rural activists 

Jara said that the school aims to introduce rural activists to essential knowledge of history, political economy, policy, law and local struggles focusing on the land and agrarian question in South Africa.

"This knowledge is crucial as an initial contribution to a broader and ongoing process of building vibrant and impactful rural movements. The overall school’s theme focuses on the political economy of rural South Africa: history, problems, prospects, and strategies for change."

He said that the main topics to be covered at the school include the broader political-economic context shaping rural conditions, rural livelihoods and development, tenure systems and rural governance.

"The school will close with a day of envisioning and building strategies for a transformed countryside characterised by land and agrarian reform, gender equality, rural democracy, sustainable livelihoods and food sovereignty."

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