Launch of Rights to Land Book
Remarks by Good Governance Africa Executive Director Dr Alain Tschudin at the launch of our first book, ‘Rights to Land’ on November 28 2017.
Distinguished guests, honourable dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen, friends, GGA, established in 2012, is a pan-African NPO with three operational centres in west Africa and SADC, and another four planned centres to cover east Africa, Francophone Africa and the Sahel. We are dedicated to improving governance on the continent and we work with government, the private sector and civil society to fulfil our mandate.
We advance our work through three major streams: publications, namely Africa in Fact, our in-house journal, and the Africa Survey (Africa in Figures), our compendium of indicators for all African countries, along with miscellaneous outcome reports and books, such as this one. The second stream comprises development – advocacy, training/skills development, facilitation, information dissemination and education.
Finally our programmes, comprising Child and Youth Development, The Promotion of Ethical Values and Spirituality, Local Governance and Grassroots Democracy, National Security, and Natural Resources. The Land Project, so-named, arises within this last programme and recognises the critical importance of this resource to our existence and flourishing.
As human beings, we have an innate connection with the world and the ecology that surrounds us. Perhaps of all the resources of nature, including the air that we breathe, the water that nourishes us, and other species of flora and fauna, it is the earth itself that grips us most viscerally and intimately. Much as the issue of land is politicised – and rightly so – there is something intuitive about it that tugs at our very being. Here is Wendell Berry, writing on The Peace of Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The rupturing of people from their place of origin and abode, from their security, their heritage and livelihoods has a devastating effect, as has been witnessed since time immemorial.
Perhaps South Africa represents one of the most pronounced examples of such uprooting; first under imperial Britain with the colonial Glen Grey Act of 1894 and then with the so-called Native Land Act of 1913 and subsequent forced removals under the apartheid era when the National Party came to power.
A story in today’s Business Day recounts how one thriving community of the Tsitsikamma Mfengu was forced off 8,000ha of fertile land and dumped in a so-called “homeland”, causing 72 children to die in the first year of displacement alone, due to a lack of milk and food. Thankfully, through a land-restitution partnership with those who had occupation post-removal, the families are now in a much more humane – and human – position.
And this is the ultimate agenda of any endeavour to make meaning: to improve the quality of life in the world around us. We would like to believe that the production of the book Rights to Land: a guide to tenure upgrading and restitution in South Africa by our authors, Professors William Beinart and Peter Delius, and Dr Michelle Hay, advances the debate in this direction. By adopting a rights-based approach to land tenure, the current offering falls squarely into a camp that promotes our constitutional rights and shared human dignity. Alternative camps appear to be less appealing to – and in some cases are a head-on threat to – hard-won democratic freedoms.
Now, I would like to introduce and hand over to our authors to guide us through this fascinating and important piece of work:
Professor William Beinart was the Rhodes Professor of Race Relations and the former Director of the African Studies Centre at Oxford, and is a Fellow of St Antony’s College. Professor Peter Delius is Associate Professor of History and former chair of that department at WITS. The two professors have been working together for over 40 years and both completed their doctoral theses at SOAS (London) on rural African history in South Africa; Delius on the Pedi chieftaincy and Beinart on the Pondo. Both have been involved in policy issues – Beinart in the Eastern Cape land-reform pilot programme and Delius with Operation Hunger. They have gotten involved in the land issue because they have been called upon by government, lawyers and NGOs to assist with research on complex restitution cases. William Beinart has focused largely on Pondoland, Peter Delius on Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
Dr Michelle Hay wrote her doctorate on Land Issues and Land Reform in Limpopo, supervised by Peter Delius and is now working independently with Peter on various case studies commissioned by the Land Claims court, including Sabie Sands, Mala Mala and a range of others. Delius and Hay were key authors of a document on resitution that was submitted to the High-Level Panel under former president Kgalema Motlanthe, the findings of which were released last week. The reopening of a land-claims Bill by private members in parliament is currently underway. Land is highly topical, with a flurry of articles in the press. On that note it seems timely to ask our authors to proceed.
On behalf of both GGA and the David and Elaine Potter Foundation, which co-funded this project with us, I would like to thank the authors, Professors Beinart and Delius and Dr Hay and contributing researchers, Drs Rosalie Kingwill and Khumisho Moguerane. I am grateful to Mr Brian King for facilitating our initial contact. I would like to recognise Mr Ben Stewart from the Potter Foundation and their board for supporting us; to Jacana, our partners in publishing the book, and specifically Bridget Impey. Finally, to my team at GGA, thanks to all of you who were involved with this research, publication and event programme. Your contributions are all deeply valued. Please now join us for celebratory treats!