Commission for Gender Equality ‘one woman, one hectare of land’ report

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

08 March 2016
Chairperson: Ms T Memela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commission for Gender Equality presented a report on the ‘One Woman, One Hectare of Land’ initiative to the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency.

The Commissioner gave an overview of the mandate and functions of the Commission, and the legislation governing the Commission, and provided an introduction to the concept of the initiative and the basis from which it had been derived, as well as the interests of the Commission in campaigning for such an initiative. He explained that the Commission had no powers to implement the initiative, and that was why it was working closely with relevant stakeholders such as the Department of Public Works and the Department of Rural development.

He explained the importance of the involvement of the Department of Traditional Affairs and the National House of Traditional Leaders in making the initiative a success, because traditional leaders owned the largest chunk of rural land. Civil society and non-government organisations (NGOs) working with women and land rights had welcomed the initiative as a step towards making women empowerment a reality.

The Commission had started working on a draft policy and legislative framework which would be finalised and presented to Parliament as soon as they were given the go ahead.

Members asked questions relating to the commitment and efforts by government to support the initiative, and what institutions such as the Land Bank could do to make it a success. They requested the presence of the Department of Traditional Affairs and the National House of Traditional Leaders at the next meeting, together with the Department of Rural Development, the Department of Public Works and civil society organisations which were working with women and land rights.

Members said that more must be done to encourage learners to follow a career in agriculture, and that the concept should not be changed to ‘one household, one hectare of land’, so that women would benefit directly from the initiative instead of being by-products of the initiative. The Committee’s focus was on women and not gender, therefore the primary focus of the initiative should be women’s empowerment.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting and requested that the apologies be read out. The Secretary read the apologies from Ms M Matshoba (ANC), Ms C Majeke (UDM) and Ms L van der Merwe (IFP), who would be late because they were attending other committee meetings; Ms C Dudley (ACDP) and Ms D Carter (COPE) were absent.

The Chairperson requested that the apologies be accepted, and that the Members move the adoption of the agenda. Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) moved the adoption of the agenda, and Mr M Dirks (ANC) seconded.

The Chairperson handed over for the presentation by the Commission for Gender Equality.

Briefing by Commission for Gender Equality

Ms Thoko Mpumlwana, Deputy Chairperson, Commission for Gender Equality, apologised for the absence of the Chairperson, Mr Mfanozelwe Shozi and the Chief Executive Officer, Ms Keketso Maema’s. It was International Women’s Day and as such they had had to spread out to attend the various events that were taking place. She handed over to Dr Wallace Mgoqi to continue the presentation.

Dr Wallace Mgoqi, Commissioner, Commission for Gender Equality, thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to present on the concept of ‘one woman, one hectare of land.’

Dr Mgoqi started his presentation by giving an introduction into how the Commission for Gender Equality had originated the concept and had been driving it with the Department of Women, Children, and People with Disabilities, which was now the Department of Women in the Presidency. The Department and the Commission could not implement any programme because their mandate and function was primarily to monitor government departments and other public sector institutions, as well as the private sector and civil society, in promoting gender equality and the protection, respect, development and attainment of equality in accordance with the Constitution.

Gender equality was provided for in Section 187(1) of the Constitution which provides that the Commission for Gender Equality must promote respect for gender equality and protect the development and attainment of gender equality. The Commission’s mandate was found in the Commission for Gender Equality Act 39 of 1996, and further finds its basis on the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 200, and international instruments that South Africa has ratified.

Section 11 of the Commission for Gender Equality Act conferred the powers and functions on the Commission to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby and advocate, and advise Parliament and report on issues of gender equality. In addition to the Constitution and domestic laws, South Africa had ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which provided in article 14 that in order to achieve equality for women, they must have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform, as well as land in resettlement schemes.

The protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of Women in Africa, article 19 -- on the right to sustainable development -- provides that women should have the right to fully enjoy their right to sustainable development, and state parties should take all necessary measures to promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land, and guarantee their right to property. They should also promote women’s access to credit, training, skills development and extension services at rural and urban levels in order to provide women with a higher quality of life and reduce the level of poverty among women.

The Southern African Development Protocol provides that state parties should review all policies and laws that determined access to, control of, and benefit from, productive resources by women in order to end all discrimination against women and girls with regard to water rights and property such as land and tenure thereof, ensure that women had equal access and rights to credit, capital, mortgages, security and training as men, and also ensure that women had access to modern, appropriate and affordable technology and support services.

Dr Mgoqi read a quotation by former Mozambican President, Joaquim Chissano, that women and girls were Africa’s greatest untapped resource, and it was they, not diamonds and minerals or oils, that would be the foundation for solid, sustainable and equitable progress. Expanding the freedoms, the education and opportunities for women held the key to kick-starting inclusive economic growth. This was true the world over, and particularly true for Africa. The leaders needed to know that the young women and girls were here and they were not a statistic. The leaders needed to create time to meet, dialogue, listen and then act.

In 2011 the Commission had published a report on South Africa’s land reforms from 2000 to 2010. The findings, among other things, were that women constituted only 13% of the total beneficiaries. Similar research in Zimbabwe over the same period had found that there were also no more than 12% women beneficiaries. In both countries, land reform had not been engendered. Communal property associations to this day were predominantly male-dominated. The Commission had adopted the concept of ‘one woman, one hectare of land’ in 2012 as a campaign. The Commission had adopted it on the basis of its mandate, which went beyond monitoring to include lobbying and advocacy to promote gender equality. The Commission had found that land and women was an area where inequality had historical roots all over the world. In the Bible, in Numbers 27, the daughters of Zelophehad, whose father had died, were denied the right to inherit their father’s land purely because they were women. The law had subsequently been reformed because they had stood up for their rights.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had a primary responsibility to make this happen. The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), due to the fact that land in rural areas fells under traditional leader, could play a facilitating role in making some of this land available to women in some form of secure tenure, for themselves and as an inheritance for their children. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had a mandate to promote economic development, and had a track record of women’s economic empowerment. It had a vast reservoir of information on business models.

The Land Bank in colonial times and under apartheid had made things happen for white farmers, channelling state funds through co-operatives. The same could and should be done for African women farmers now. The relationship between women and land to this day was via the father, or the male sibling, or the husband. Where the woman was unmarried, it was through an uncle, but never directly with the woman. Women constituted 70% of farm labour, yet had a tenuous and precarious relationship to the land. This could change if the state were to have the political will to do it.

The Land Bank had been seen to be enthusiastic, together with the Department of Public Works, both being important as the custodians of the land and funders of land-related projects. The basic tenets of the ‘one woman, one hectare of land’ concept was for the state to allocate a minimum of one hectare of land to the most vulnerable rural women, who were ready and able to use it productively. Land ownership in itself would not eliminate poverty in women and dependence on men, but would assist them to turn their activities into businesses that provided sustainable incomes. The state had a critical role to play to make this happen, and there was unlimited potential that could be unleashed by the implementation of this initiative. There was no shortage of women farmers in the field, judging by the entries in the provincial and national Female Farmer of the Year awards each year.

Civil society and women’s land advocacy groups such as the Rural Women Assembly of Southern Africa had embraced the concept as a demand from government. The demand resonated with women as it encapsulated their conditions of subjugation when it came to land. The allocation of land to individual men and women in communal land areas had to be approached with caution. The Commission did not advocate full-blown individual ownership in all cases, but some guarantee of land allocation -- something more than a Permission to Occupy, with a guarantee of financial support from the state upon the production of a plan. Where feasible, land ownership should be extended to women, as individuals or heads of households.

The concept could be called a different name, as long as it would extend land rights to women with a secure form of tenure. If it was more palatable to call it one household, that was in order. The Zimbabwean farmers had distilled the following lessons -- money and knowledge were pre-requisites, training, looking at others and experimenting, having a plan for farming, reinvesting back in the farm, hard work and living on the farm, understanding farming -- and when all these lessons were taken into account, there would be reasonable prospects of success.

Municipalities had under their jurisdiction commonages which had not been used in a transparent manner, let alone benefited the poorest of the poor. Equally, in rural areas, traditional leaders had under their jurisdiction large tracts of land which had not really benefited women or women-headed households optimally in the past. The concept presented an opportunity for these structures to redeem and vindicate themselves by stepping up to the plate, and making land available to women in a fair, transparent and equitable manner. The African Union (AU) had declared 2015 to be a year of equality for women, women’s rights, and women’s economic empowerment. AU state parties, private sector institutions and civil society formations were all expected to put their shoulders to the wheel and make it happen.

Dr Mgoqi explained the essence of the concept by saying that the initiative was saying that given the tenuous and precarious nature of the relationship between a woman and land, always via the father, a male sibling, a husband or an uncle, the state should have a role in allocating a minimum of one hectare of land or more to the very poor women in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. Private sector institutions may also participate in this by making land available for productive and sustainable use. The women could use the one hectare for a house and for growing food in a sustainable way, and as an inheritance for their children.

Farm workers and farm dwellers were one of the most oppressed and exploited sectors of our society, and could benefit handsomely from the implementation of one woman, one household, one hectare of land. The State had so far used labour legislation like the Labour Tenants Act and Extension of Security and Tenure Act, but there had been no reciprocity on the part of farm owners who had instead embarked on a casualisation of labour as well as an externalisation of labour through labour brokers. The time was now ripe for government to use its muscle to acquire land on behalf of farm workers and farm dwellers.

Research concerning women and land showed that nourished children whose mothers owned land were 33% less likely to be severely underweight. Women who owned land were eight times less likely to experience domestic violence. Women with strong property and inheritance rights earned up to 3.8 times more income, and households where women owned land were up to 10% less likely to be sick. Women’s individual savings were up to 35% greater where women’s property and inheritance rights were stronger, and families where women owned land devoted more of their budget to education. All of these factors contributed to a better world.

An example of a success story was found in Ms Mavis Mathabatha, a black female farmer and entrepreneur who had started planting moringa trees in Limpopo. Her research partners were Fort Hare University, Wits, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Department of Science and Technology, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS). The Limpopo Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), TTI and TIL had also partnered with her. She had received her financing from SA Trust, ABSA, the Ackerman Pick & Pay Foundation, and the incubators were Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and Coca Cola Fortune Abafazi.

Dr Mgoqi said that the initiative had the potential for job creation, in that as soon as land was allocated either through ownership, or on a lease or use basis, members of that community who were unemployed but willing to work would find work for themselves. It would be a black empowerment exercise in so far as it would be targeting landless and poor communities, primarily women, with a view to transferring land rights and giving them an inheritance for their children. The initiative had the potential of uplifting the community and creating a dynamic of vibrancy and social cohesion from the youth to the adult population of the community. The initiative would also allow members of the family to acquire knowledge and skills that they could pass on to the next generation.

Dr Mgoqi said that the initiative presented opportunities for participants to learn about the issues of environmental sustainability and climate change, thus conducting themselves appropriately. It presented an opportunity for preferential procurement for those community members. A whole new generation of women would be lifted up to a completely new level.

The UN had now adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, and Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls, Target 5a, stated that parties should undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources in accordance with national laws. This was a very important target in the promotion of gender equality, especially in the light of historic injustices suffered by women with regard to ownership and control of land and other forms of property.

Introducing the initiative in the rural areas and in communal jurisdictions may go a long way towards empowering large numbers of women, even in helping replenish the loss of white commercial farmers producing food for the nation. Where land allocation was accompanied by financial and non-financial assistance, it would enable those allocated access to land to use it profitably, productively and sustainably. The land may be used individually or as a co-operative. The Baphiring judgement had some guidelines for the Land Claims Court, but these judgements were gender blind.

The Commission had taken the step of drafting proposed legislation to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties involved, from the state whose rights must be protected, to the women beneficiaries who may not be overreached, to third parties who may become involved in this broad-based black women’s empowerment exercise. As soon as the political principals gave a nod to the initiative to go ahead, the draft legislation would be finalised for Parliament to consider.

The education of communities and efforts to change the attitudes of men towards the attainment of land rights by women would go a long way towards making this initiative a success.

On 28 October 2015, the Commission had met with the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, and the engagement had resulted in the Committee being supportive of the initiative. In order to take the initiative forward, proposals had been made to the following effect: the model for ownership under the initiative must be defined, a funding model for a sustainable initiative was necessary, a policy framework and legislation must be developed, key aspects such as revenue generation and income distribution must be considered, and the category of beneficiaries must be defined for meaningful beneficiary identification. The quality and location of land must be given serious consideration, the manner in which land under the initiative would be pooled and utilized was a vital requirement for its success, the role and responsibilities of key stakeholders must be identified and include, amongst others, government at all three levels, financial institutions, support structures such as electricity and water, advice by specialists and oversight.

Dr Mgoqi ended the presentation with a quotation by saying that every woman, in every village, in every hamlet, in every part of the country, who received an allocation of land would say that this land you have given me was pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance.


The Chairperson thanked Dr Mgoqi for the presentation and invited Members to ask questions.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that she welcomed the initiative by the Commission. However, she did not agree with the concept being changed to one household, one hectare of land, as this shifts the main focus from the fact that the initiative was aimed at empowering women and affording them a chance to exercise their rights to land ownership so that they could be empowered. If the focus was on the household, it would result in women being a by-product of the initiative and not directly benefiting from the initiative. It would leave women in the same position they were in with regard to the child grant -- just because the money was being received by the mother did not mean that she benefited directly from it. It was not intended for her, but for her child.

Mr Dirks said that he welcomed the initiative because he was receiving it from a point of understanding, having being raised by a female subsistence farmer. It was important that stakeholders were involved in the initiative so that they could assist the women to successfully manage their land assets, especially with regard to the selling of the produce from their land.

Ms D Robinson (DA) said that the most important stakeholder in making this initiative a success was the Department of Traditional Affairs and the National House of Traditional Leaders. The largest chunks of land were under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders, and as such their role and commitment to making this initiative a success was vital. There was a need to also recognise these communal lands as viable and valid properties so that banks could be approached for funding.

The Chairperson further stressed the importance of involvement by the traditional leaders.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) said that the issue of women and land was very important for women’s empowerment. She said that many projects with a similar objective as the initiative had been started in previous years, and gave an example of a sweet potato farm in one of the regions of KwaZulu-Natal. The problem arose when the community members were lied to about the purpose of the projects and were made to sign documents that they did not understand. The participants of the projects were also not taught how to manage the projects as profitable businesses that they could sustain on a long-term basis. She requested that institutions such as the Inyanga Trust should be looked into, as they gave only 10% of the land to the participants for a period of five years, after which they retained the full ownership of the land. This resulted in community members thinking that they were empowered and owned land, when in actual fact they did not.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) requested that at the next meeting with the Commission, the Department of Rural Development, the Department of Traditional Affairs and NGOs in support of the initiative should be present and give presentations with regard to the initiative and their thoughts and commitments towards it. This would result in there being a full understanding of the issues involved and would help to map the way forward.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi requested that universities should be involved in the initiative, especially faculties of environmental studies and agriculture, to help with the initiative.

Ms Khawula asked what was being done to encourage learners at school to follow a career in agriculture, and why the agriculture colleges of education had been closed down.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) said that the same bias that the Land Bank had in channelling state funds to white farmers during apartheid should be applied now to assist in fast-tracking the process of black female empowerment. She wanted to know the percentage of land that was owned by government that was suitable for farming and what commitments had been made by government to avail the land to move this initiative forward. The focus should be on urban and peri-urban areas as well, as there were many poor women living in these areas who would benefit from the initiative.

Ms Mpumlwana responded by saying that they welcomed the comments and suggestions as the Commission, and would incorporate them as they moved forward with the initiative.

Dr Mgoqi said that the involvement of the traditional leaders was indeed crucial, because they owned the land in the rural areas, and as such were vital for the success of the initiative. It should be noted, however, that the issue of land ownership was a sensitive matter because when one spoke of land, one spoke of power, and it was not easy for people or institutions to give up power.  Engagements with these institutions should not be undertaken with force.

He said that there was a report on how the Land Bank had channelled funds from 1912 to 1994 which had been initiated by the Foundation for Human Rights, of which Ms Mpumlwana was the Chairperson. He would make the report available so that it could be seen how the same bias could be applied to fast-track the empowerment of black women.

The Chairperson said that it must not be forgotten that universities may possess knowledge, but their approach was mainly academic and a more practical approach was required to make the initiative a success. The colleges of education had been closed down because there was no longer an interest in agriculture and farming by learners, but efforts were being made to offer bursaries in that field in order to increase the turnover of students.

The Chairperson thanked the team from the Commission for their presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.

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