When Nelson Mandela was launching the KwaZulu-Natal Land Reform Pilot programme in 1995, he promised that it will address poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and economic depression.
His government put up an ambitious land reform policy that identified land redistribution as the solution to redress years of injustice.
Unfortunately, 24 years down line this policy has remained a dream, while land injustices have swollen, leaving more people economically depressed. The derailment of the original purpose of Land Reform policy by issuing governments and poor land administration gave rise to corruption, land grabbing and poverty. This betrayed Mandela’s ambitions and suppressed people’s hopes.
That is the reason why South African civil society engaged in land and tenure rights acknowledged the need to team up, overcome internal divisions and seek the way for united action. This exigence brought to the creation of LandNNES (South African Land Network National Engagement Strategy), a civil society platform advocating for people-centred land governance.
With the support of the International Land Coalition, LandNNES members met in Johannesburg for three days in August 2019 to discuss and plan the implementation of the next three years of their joint work. LandNESS works on three strategic actions. While the first, #Get_It is focused on promoting the adoption of a just and equitable land policy that provides for secure basic land and resource rights for all citizens, the second, #Keep_It works to promote institutional changes to achieve an effective land administration system (LA), including new approaches to land data and information management. The third, #Use_It tries to promote equitable land distribution and public investment that supports small-scale farming and fishing systems.
The last LandNNES meeting recognised the need to strengthen advocacy initiatives and put forward policy proposals in order to catch the momentum created by the release of the report of the Land Presidential Advisory Panel. The report highlights the main failures of the current land administration and identified important recommendation to have effective redistribution and finally support rural development.
Among the activities proposed by the LandNNES working groups are the launch of a survey to probe the opinions around the current status of the land reform and the proposal for the creation of a rejuvenated and expanded land observatory at a national scale. LandNNES members also agreed on the need to have a Land Reform Framework bill as a more binding legal instrument on land rights. LandNNES will also participate in a LANDex training initiative in October this year in order to set a national framework for Land Governance Monitoring in South Africa.
Civil society organisations struggling for more equitable land rights bring the voice of the most vulnerable part of the South African society, which currently feels deceived and unheard. LandNNES initiative, together with a National Multi-stakeholder Platform on the Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security (the VGGTs), represent precious and hopeful spaces for these voices, which are now asking for an effective change in their opportunities.