Leaflet produced by the Bikisha Media Collective, Anarchist Union and Zabalaza Books against the World Bank meeting with the South African National Department of Agriculture in Durban, circa 2001
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This week, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a member of the notorious World Bank Group, is meeting this week with the National Department of Agriculture in Durban. Hundreds of scientists and researchers from around the world will be joining them. Just what are these guys plotting?
South Africa has a huge gap between rich and poor and land ownership is one of the main sources of this inequality. Today, some 60 000 mainly white farmers own 87% of the land while the black population of some 36 million people are expected to cram into the remaining 13%, or to live on other people’s land, paying them high rent. This inhumane system dates back to the 1913 Land Act under which the British colonialists robbed the black peasantry of its most productive land, leaving them only the driest and most remote parts.
The 1994 democratic elections were supposed to change all of that. But the South African Ruling Class and their foreign allies are still looking for ways to squeeze more out of the rural poor. Land hunger in South Africa is at least as extreme as in Zimbabwe, but the political leaders and their unelected World Bank allies spend their time trying to do as little as possible to fix the real problem. Instead the World Bank drew up a plan that was used by the ANC government as the basis of its “RDP” land redistribution programme.
THE GREAT LAND CON
This programme firstly only allowed communities to demand land back which had been taken after 1913, by which time 90% of the land had already been stolen by the colonialists. Secondly, a paltry R15 000 compensation was offered instead of land. Most poor people have taken the money, so that today, although more than 12 000 land claims (many of them urban) out of the more than 67 000 have been settled, almost no good agricultural land has gone back into black hands. Recently, even the Land Claims Court is set to disappear, to be absorbed in the normal courts, so the rural poor will be forced to the back of the queue again.
In so-called “tribal” areas, the ANC-IFP government has not challenged the rule of the kings and chiefs on whose say-so hangs the livelihood of so many rural poor. These people have no security of tenure. They live on the good will of these extremely wealthy men, while their brothers and sisters on white-owned farmland are reduced to the condition of serfs. Lastly, the ANC-IFP government sold out their own peasant supporters, they have allowed white right-wing farmers to settle in countries like Mozambique and Zambia, exporting their brand of racism and increased poverty to the local populations.
The World Bank designs economic policies to improve the exploitation by wealthy countries and corporations of the poor of the world. Many African countries are tottering on the verge of collapse as a result of failed World Bank policies. Entire industries and agricultures have been destroyed to suit their policies. We poor are living and dying because of them.
GRAPES OF WRATH
So what are they pretending to offer to South Africa? Well, CGIAR has been boasting that new varieties of maize it has developed “with 30-50% higher yields” will mean “more food and income for poor farmers”. Land Affairs Minister, Thoko Didiza, claimed the new seeds would “improve agriculture and rural livelihoods for the poorest farmers in South Africa”. This from a woman whose department’s new policy is to favour already rich black farmers who can become part of the exploitive system (exploiting the rural workers in turn).
Every farmer knows that while better-yielding seeds are a great thing, the real question is who controls the supply of seeds? And who is going to make money off the poor as they are herded towards single sources of supply in which no doubt some government official’s brother-in-law has a stake? CGIAR is not trying to make agriculture in South Africa sustainable. It is trying to make it commercial, so that big farmers swallow up smaller ones who then work the land as landless peasants again. Then we are back to where we started.
The CGIAR summit is essentially a business meeting, where the ruling elites in government, agricultural big business and the policy industry get together to decide how they are going to profit off the rest of us. It is worth noting that Thursday morning’s session, the “decision-making” session, according to the agenda, will take place in secret, behind closed doors. So much for democracy! They will decide our futures without us!
NO!, we say, and NO! again! We, the workers and poor will determine our own futures. We have had enough of waiting like dogs for hand-outs from the master’s table. We are strong men and women and we will control our own communities, our own economies and our own lives as we see fit. It was a great victory for us to replace the white racist dictatorship with a democracy. But democracy is what happens at the base, at the grassroots, not with the WaBenzi in Parliament.
The workers and poor in the rural areas must strengthen their unions and land reclamation civic organisations. Together, both as workers and as communities, we must take back the land stolen from us by the rich farmers (both black and white) and the fat-cat chiefs. WE WILL NOT WAIT 20 YEARS LIKE OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ZIMBABWE! We must form ourselves into communes able to feed ourselves and help our neighbouring poor. We must occupy the farms, operate them in the interest of all fellow workers and poor and defend our gains with force if necessary. We are not dogs, we are lions and the only bones we will chew will be the bones of the rich!
FOR WORKERS’ SELF-MANAGEMENT, COMMUNITY CONTROL, LAND & FREEDOM
Leaflet Issued by:
* Bikisha Media Collective – (Johannesburg, Cape Town & Port Elizabeth)
* Anarchist Union – (Durban)
* Zabalaza Books (Durban)
Outdated contact details removed