Even with land, strike a woman you strike a rock
Resistance to land grabs forms powerful narrative
THE month of August affords South Africa an opportunity to commemorate and celebrate its women.
The month reminds us about the struggles of South African women dating to the audacious deeds witnessed at the Union Buildings on August 9, 1956 when women stood unshaken, hell-bent on resisting the pass laws of the apartheid days.
Today, women’s land rights remain one of the most important social, political and economic contestations in post-colonial Africa. Land is not only a source of food, employment and income, it also gives social prestige and access to political power.
Land has long been recognised as key to advancing the socio-economic rights and wellbeing of women and their position in society. Yet access, control and ownership of land largely remains the domain of male privilege, entrenching patriarchal structures of power and control over community resources, history, culture and tradition. For the majority of women in Africa, access to land is still linked to their relationship with a male family member and is forfeited if the relationship ends. Even where land reform policies include gender-equality goals, these tend to fade when it comes to implementation.
The lack of serious attention to gender equality reinforces the marginalised position of women and undermines mainstreaming efforts to improve women’s rights. It also hampers, broadly speaking, strategies for economic development.
While civil-society advocacy and government programmes to reform disparities in land-tenure regimes have removed some of the historical legal barriers, land remains an unachievable aspiration for most of the continent’s rural and urban poor.
Women’s prospects for socio-economic upliftment through secure tenure appear particularly grim even more so as the global demand for land for large-scale agriculture and mining increases land scarcity, fuelling a rise in land prices and fierce competition for control. Further, the de facto existence of a dual system of statutory law and indigenous customary law in many countries allows men to manoeuvre from one to the other as it favours them.
The complexity of legal systems narrows women’s access to justice as they often lack basic knowledge of legal procedures and their rights. Ongoing legislative and institutional reforms also need to engage with custom to deconstruct and reconceptualise traditional notions of land access, control and ownership, with a view to intervene at points that will make the most difference for women.
Despite the gendered nature of power relations, land-rights issues are constantly negotiated, contested and resisted by affected women in various ways. Beyond formal policy processes, the examples of women’s self-organised resistance to land grabs and their strategies to thwart patriarchal forms of dispossession offer powerful narratives. TSHEPO DIALE NKWE ESTATE
SA’s fire control industry is crying out for reforms
THE article “Commission in massive raid on fire control entities” in the August 4 Business Report strongly suggests that the fire-control industry in South Africa, from the Automatic Sprinkler Inspection Bureau downwards, have leveraged our natural fear of fire into a jealously guarded money-printing exercise.
While the Competition Commission must be allowed to discipline companies that have colluded to fix prices, there is another angle that needs investigation.
I work closely with the cold-storage industry, and several projects have been placed on hold indefinitely purely because of the cost of fire-control systems. These are dictated by local fire authorities who require in-freezer sprinkler systems as well as storage tanks and pumps where water pressures are deemed to be low. As any cold-store operator will tell you, sprinklers in freezer stores are more of a hazard than a help.
The sprinkler heads are prone to getting knocked by forklifts, resulting in massive product damage and skating rink conditions. It matters not if you buy fire-resistant insulation materials or install smoke sensors; sprinklers are still required.
British cold stores have been allowed to adopt a more practical and cost-effective approach. Given that the current ethics of the fire-control industry are more than suspect, isn’t now a good time to review sprinkler requirements and come up with practical and easily understood guidelines that can be adopted and agreed nationally by all industries, such as cold storage? JAMES CUNNINGHAM CAPE TOWN
Simple solution to the unemployment scourge
I REFER to Roy Cokayne’s report on the Industrial Development Corporation creating 18 206 jobs. Can we now ask how many jobs have been created by the unearned billions that have been stolen (or whatever)?
A simple solution to creating thousands of jobs – give the people now living in the tribal areas title deeds to the land on which they live under unelected chiefs (not very democratic).
These small farms will need muscle to develop – the present men living in deplorable conditions trying to access non-available jobs in towns can now go back to the family farm and work with dignity, producing food for themselves but also to feed the people in towns.
A rough estimate – create 500 000 jobs at very little cost but a huge amount of political will, which is sadly lacking right now. PE L’ESTRANGE CAPE TOWN