Even with land, strike a woman you strike a rock

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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

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