At the 54th National Conference of the ANC, delegates resolved, amongst others, to accelerate land reform and rural development as part of the broader programme of radical socio-economic transformation.
This watershed Conference further resolved that expropriation of land without compensation “should be among the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution”.
“In determining the mechanisms of implementation, we must ensure that we do not undermine future investment in the economy, or damage agricultural production and food security”, the Conference further resolved.
In order for the South African society to ensure that land reform and redistribution does not damage the economy in general, and food production in particular, we need to work together irrespective of our political and ideological inclinations, to dirty our hands in making sure that the land is shared among those who work it, as espoused in the Freedom Charter.
Historically, black women in South Africa endured triple chains of oppression. In addition to black women facing oppression because of their race and gender, they were also discriminated at their workplace, and that is if they did get any employment at all.
Whilst the democratic government made a lot of progress in fighting against the race, gender and class oppressions I have mentioned above, black women in general and African women in particular continue to carry the yoke of the triple contradictions of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
According to the Poverty Trends Report, released by Statistics South Africa in 2017, poverty affects women more than men in South Africa, with the most vulnerable people being African women in rural areas with little or no education. These are the women who, despite being faced with the task of childcare, are also often expected to feed their families.
On Friday, 10th May 2018, I had the rare opportunity to be invited to the launch of Martindale Women in Farming Cooperative, which was established in March 2018 to empower women, youth and people with disabilities who are engaged in agricultural activities in urban and rural areas. The establishment of the Cooperative was supported by the Free State Department f Agriculture and Rural Development.
Founded by 10 women, the Cooperative is involved with fruit and vegetable farming within the Bloemspruit area, situated in the Mangaung Metro Municipality. Following the passing on of one of the founding members, the Cooperative currently has 9 women.
I was inspired by the dedication shown by these women in farming, whose work not only contributes to food security and agricultural production, but also enhances economic development. In Sesotho we say; “Mmangwana o tshwara thipa ka bohaleng”, literally meaning that a mother holds the sharpness of the knife, and figuratively meaning that a mother will overcome all obstacles and odds to protect and to take care of her offspring.
The founders of Martinadale Women in Farming Cooperative, after realizing that their families needed food, took the decision to unite and bring food on their tables. I was extremely inspired by the selflessness, dedication and commitment displayed by these women. On behalf of the Free State Provincial Government, I donated a tractor and other farming implements to assist this Cooperative in doing its work. I further instructed the MEC for Agriculture & Rural Development, Dr. Benny Malakoane, to ensure that an additional tractor and other farming support is provided to this Cooperative.
The story of Martindale Women in Farming Cooperative is extremely inspiring. In this era, when food security is one of the key items on our developmental agenda, we need such initiatives to multiply. In light of the poverty statistics by StatsSA above, when women, particularly black women, are the most vulnerable to poverty, women have no choice but to unite like the Martindale Women in Farming, to save themselves and their families from poverty.
Through a programme of Radical Economic Transformation, the Free State Provincial Government commits to support all efforts aimed to ensure that the patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy are tilted in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
I call on all women in South Africa to follow the footsteps of the Martindale Women in Farming and take up their digging-forks and dig the land, for it is the women who must hold the sharpness of the knife in our battle against poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Sisi Ntombela is the Premier of the Free State and Deputy President of the ANC Women’s League