Where are the rural voices? Unpacking Civil Case with Stha Yeni

Stha Yeni, from the civil alliance Tshintsha Amakhaya, started off day two of Thinkfest by continuing our discussions around the issue of land within our country. For Stha the concern is that rural voices are often silent in the public debates around land. When talking about land we need to talk about land for who and for what purpose. In her talk, Unpacking Civil Cases via the work of Tshintsha Amakhaya, Stha’s focus is on the dynamic and struggles for land as they play out in rural areas. Tshintsha Amakhaya is made up of 10 land and agrarian NGOs across four provinces who work closely with a number of community partners.

One of the struggles for these farm dwellers is the lack of basic services from municipalities, such as housing, water and electricity, because they are privately owned. The challenge is that these farms are private property which then makes the people. Due to the land and property arrangements accessing those farms is a challenge.

“They don’t have government. The government is the farm owner. They do not enjoy the benefits of democracy.”

Women on farms, in particular, face a number of human rights violations, such as long hours, no sick leave, no protective clothing. A range of inhumane working conditions alongside the high profit that these farms make.Another struggle for farm dwellers is tenure insecurity; leaving many of these people unsure of eviction processes and leaving many farm dwellers without access to land for living and production purposes. All the attempts by the state to ensure tenure security have failed due to inadequate implementation. The struggle for farm dwellers and small-scale farm is the unequal agrarian structure that exists; where on the one hand you have large scale agribusiness and on the other hand you have small-scale farmers, insecure land rights and no access to markets.

“What we see is that business is protected at the expense of people’s livelihoods.”

This then raises the question: What kind of land reform would speak to the concern of these farm dwellers? How does land reform transform this unequal structure?

According to Stha we need to think about land and livelihoods, instead of land just as a commodity, because it does not address the problems. Land reforms must primary deliver for the poor, such as ensuring security of tenure and support for rural activism. When asked about what the public can do with regard to these issues Stha refereed to The Treatment Action plan as a example of the way which public pressure can stimulate change. Alternative ways of dealing with the concerns of the farm dwellers need to be explored. It is therefore a combination of activism on the ground, engaging with civil society and research to come up with solutions in order to address these land concerns.

“We need to build stronger voice from the ground.”

Listen to Stha Yeni’s full presentation and discussion with the audience here:

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