Launch of NUMSA & FAWU campaign for Agrarian Transformation & Land redistribution in South Africa

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) held a bilateral meeting on 26 May 2013 in Johannesburg.

Among numerous issues discussed at the bilateral was an agreement to launch a Campaign for Agrarian Transformation and Land Distribution in South Africa.

The objectives of the campaign are:
• to put pressure on the state so that the latter can fast-track agrarian
transformation and land redistribution in South Africa

• to engage the owners of the agriculture and food sectors with the aim of changing the exploitative agrarian social relations and concentrated patterns of ownership in the sector

• to make sure the implementation of the provisions of the Freedom Charter that says that “the land shall be shared by those who work it”

• to struggle for zero hunger and food security in South Africa where nutritious food is available and accessible on a sustainable basis to all people in the country

• to build a strong and formidable movement for agrarian transformation

• to support moves and measures that are in line with aims of the Campaign for Agrarian Transformation and Land Distribution in South Africa.

The two unions agreed to launch the campaign next week Wednesday 19 June to coincide with the centenary of the notorious Native Land Act of 1913.
The 1913 Act limited black African land ownership to 7% despite the fact that black Africans made up two-thirds of South Africa’s population. Although preceded by more than two centuries of land grabs and theft, the piece of legislation codified one of the most violent forms of land dispossession. It was preceded by more than two centuries of land grabs and theft.

It also opened floodgates for the most brutal campaign to move black people from their land and from their properties. It is on the day of enactment of the 1913 Native Land Act that NUMSA and FAWU have decided to launch their Campaign for Agrarian Transformation and Land Distribution in South Africa.

Next week Wednesday 19 June, our members will go to work wearing headbands inscribed with the campaign slogans: Lefatse (Land in Sesotho) … Ons soek ‘it (We want it in Afrikaans)! Mawubuye! (Let it return in Nguni languages). Inside the factories, they will hold lunchtime pickets and meetings. On the same day and after work, we will hold jointly rallies in the major cities and rural towns of our country. The launching rallies will be held in the following town:

Ekurhuleni: Thokoza Auditorium in Thokoza (17h30)
Nelson Mandela Bay Metro: Nangoza Jebe Hall, New Brighton in
Port Elizabeth (16h00)
Johannesburg Metro: Constitutional Court Hill, Braamfontein

A picket for food security under the slogan: Price controls on basic foodstuffs will also be held in front of Bloemfontein’s Pick n’ Pay in 111 Benade Drive.

NUMSA and FAWU national office bearers will address these gatherings.

What are our demands?
On 8-9 June 2013, joint Numsa/Fawu workshops on land and agrarian transformation were held across the country to develop a shared perspective on land reforms, prepare for National Day of Action and endorse a joint Programme of Action (PoA).

These are the demands that came out of the regional workshops:

1. Amend the property clause in the Constitution to unblock land redistribution

Although we appreciate the tabling of the 2013 Expropriation Bill and fully support the President Jacob Zuma’s announcement when he opened parliament in February 2013 that government was moving from “willing buyer, willing seller” principle, we are of the view that the good intentions of the Bill and the President will be frustrated by the clause in Section 25(2)(b) that makes courts the final arbiter on compensation.

We do not think that an untransformed judiciary will have a broad interpretation of what is meant by ‘just and equitable’ compensation.

Our workshops explored the possibility of the Expropriation Advisory Boards that were in the 2008 version of the Expropriation Bill, together with the proposed Office of the Valuer-General and a reconstituted Land Claims Court, instead of ordinary courts, being the institutions that deal with compensation.

2. Complete the land register

The National Land Summit in 2005 agreed on land register to indicate who owned what in South Africa. The call for a register was gain echoed at the 52nd ANC national conference in Polokwane. Unfortunately the register has not been made public and we keep hearing that “it is complete but being finalised”. As NUMSA and FAWU, we are calling for the finalization of this and publication of the register.

3. Appeal to the Competitions Commission to complete its investigation into restrictive practices, abuse of dominance and anti-competitive conduct in the food and agro-processing sectors

In 2008, the Competitions Commission launched an investigation into restrictive practices, abuse of dominance and anti-competitive conduct in the food and agro-processing sectors. Unfortunately this investigation seems to have run out of steam. We are calling for its completion and the publication of the findings.

4. Get the Green Paper on Land Reform into a Bill

In September 2011, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and Department unveiled the Green Paper on Land Reform. The Green Paper has been slowly making its own way through the policy pipeline. It seems to be stuck in ever-expanding advisory teams dominated by academics and farmers. It is high time that the Bill moves speedily into a Bill.

5. Sort tenure in communal areas

Insecure land tenure in communal areas is a key legacy of apartheid, but addressing it has proved to be one of the thorniest problems facing tenure reform policy makers. Government promulgated the Communal Land Rights Act (CLARA) 11 of 2004 in response to Section 25 (6) of the Bill of Rights.

By 2010, however, the Constitutional Court had declared the Act unconstitutional, and it was not at all clear how government intended to fill the legal vacuum. For the Green Paper on Land Reform to just say that tenure in communal areas will sorted out different was highly insensitive to the people who reside in former Bantustans. We need a clear strategy on how tenure will dealt with in communal areas.

6. Stop evictions of farmworkers and labour tenants

As NUMSA and FAWU, we call for a reviewal of the following pieces of legislation:

• Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 3 of 1996,

• Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 and

• Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998.

As part of attempts to protect farmworkers, the ANC-led government passed the above laws whose aim to give security of tenure to labour tenants and farmworkers. Despite the enactment of these laws statistics show that in the same period that these legislations were in operation, huge numbers of labour tenants and farm dwellers were evicted:

• Between 1995 and 2004, over two million black people left white farms where they lived, of whom about 930,000 were evicted and the principal reason for evictions was loss of farm employment.

• The eviction peaked in 1997, when the government passed the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA), and in 2003, when a minimum wage for farm workers was introduced.

It is because of the failure of these Acts that we are calling for a reviewal so as to tighten the loop.

Why are we embarking on this campaign?

Land redistribution has been moving at a snail’s pace in our country. Although the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) called for the redistribution of 30% of agricultural land within the first five years of the land redistribution programme, the date for meeting the stipulated target has shifted from the “first five years of the programme” to 2014. To date only 7% of actual land has been distributed. Also, most of the land distributed is also not being used productively.

In his State of the Nation Address (SoNA) President had to admit, without offering an alternative target date to 2014, that “we will not be able to meet our redistribution targets”. In the absence of a target date, what we are left with is the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s Green Paper on Land Reform that has slowly been making its way through the policy-making pipeline since 2011.

We also have the National Development Plan (NDP) that pleads with us to rely for land reform on the benevolence’s of white commercial farmers who in cash or in kind will donate the other 50% of what is required to purchase 20% of readily available land (land already in the market, land of farmers under financial pressure, land of absentee landlords willing to exit and land in deceased estate) in each district municipality with commercial farming land. Instead of proposing a new target date for redistributing 30% of commercial land, the NDP counsels us with a line that “land transfer targets must be in line with fiscal and economic realities”; a code line that land redistribution targets must be within the government’s fiscal constraints.

The NDP also calls for the following principle to underlie the country’s land reform programme:

• A land reform programme that must not upset land markets or business interests in the agricultural sector

• Protection of land markets against corruption, opportunism and speculation

• Creation of opportunities for white commercial white farmers to contribute to land reform.

In addition to the failure to move land redistribution forward through existing policy measures, we note the high levels of concentration and centralisation that characterise the agricultural sector in South Africa.

Not only is agricultural production dependent on a few large-scale and predominantly white commercial farmers, what we have witnessed in the last few years is vertical integration of grain storage and trading; food processing and manufacturing and retail as they came into key agro-food commodity chains.

We also witness high levels of concentration in the manufacture and supply of inputs such as fertilizer, and high levels of concentration also in processing, packaging and retail.

We also see conglomerates playing a dominant role in the sector. In sub-sectors such as fish and fish products; fruit and vegetables; oil and fats; dairy products; bakery and confectionary; milled grain products; and animal feed, five biggest companies take more than half of the sub-sector’s turnover.

In all these sub-sectors, multinational corporations such as Nestle, Unilever, Dole, Parmalat and McCain are very active. International equipment suppliers such as Tetrapak, APV and GEA, their presence in South Africa has grown over the last few years.

The effects of this concentration and centralization are the following:

• Collusion in procurement and price-fixing leading to higher prices and lack of food security for the poor

• High prices, particularly in essential goods and services

• Small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) being denied access to markets or being subjected to exploitative conduct by cartels.

How will the campaign unfold?

Our National Day of Action marks the beginning of a three month-long campaign. We intend to intensify our campaign as we build up to a ‘mock referendum’ to be held in September 2013 where will ask our members to vote on whether the property clause in the constitution should be repealed or not. We hope to use the ‘mock referendum’ to build a momentum for the campaign and show that our demands resonate amongst our members.

Between the launch and the ‘mock referendum’ in September, we plan to do the following:

• organise marches to AgriSA, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

• engage as part of COSATU the Expropriation Bill and Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill when the two pieces of legislation come to NEDLAC

• Look at practical ways on how to get farmworkers organized.


We, NUMSA and FAWU have resolved to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, together with COSATU, the SACP and the leader of the Alliance – the ANC, in the struggle to advance a radical phase of our national democratic revolution. We see our campaign as contributing to this new phase of our revolution.

Issued by NUMSA and FAWU National Office Bearers (NOBs).


Castro Ngobese
Numsa National Spokesperson
Cell: 0810111137
Tel: 0116891700


Moleko Phakedi
Fawu Deputy General Secretary
Cell: 0824925111