North West premier reflects on the 100-year anniversary of the Native Land Act.
The opening of the North West Provincial Legislature on February 22 in the provincial capital Mahikeng was used by Premier Thandi Modise to reflect on the 100-year anniversary of the Native Land Act, which was the precursor to decades of dispossession.
"This Act paved the way for all other offensive racist legislation that led to the institutionalisation of apartheid in 1948," she said. "Blacks, particularly Africans, were removed from their land and restricted from buying or occupying land except as slaves to the white master. This was not only the dispossession of land, but a deliberate erosion of culture and livelihood, leaving in its wake underdevelopment and poverty.
"In 2013, 100 years later, millions of our people still live in poverty in the areas into which their forefathers were banished."
Despite this past and the continuing hardship of the many rural people of the North West province, the premier said the attainment of freedom involved the restoration of dignity and status as full citizens, worthy of the world they live in.
"This too, cannot happen in an environment that is fraught with all sorts of divisions and unnecessary fissures. We meet here today, as men and women drawn from different parties, united in our resolve to make our province a living testimony of the freedom of both minds and souls.
"I stand here inspired by the hope that the masses have in us to resolve the vexing challenges they face. I stand here unshaken in my conviction that the angels of history did not conspire in bad faith to put us in the social space. It is in this that our unity lies. It is in this that we draw strength to build a non-racial, non-sexist society, mindful of its sad past, but inspired by the bright future that beckons."
She saluted stalwarts of the African National Congress such as Oliver Tambo, JB Marks and Sol Plaatjie, in particular, who had close ties with the province.
"The attainment of democracy in 1994 brought to the fore the possibility for South Africa to address poverty and inequality, thus restoring the dignity of citizens, irrespective of race, class or gender. We are indebted to our forefathers for their unparalleled leadership in fighting against this Act and other legislations brought by colonialism and apartheid."
Land redistribution programme
The government's ongoing land redistribution programme was introduced to rectify the wrongs of the Act and the North West province had made some headway in this regard, said Modise.
"We have numerous successes in land redistribution and beneficiaries are enjoying the fruits. However, we still have challenges in the backlog of the applications from our province. As part of the commemoration of 100 years of the Native Land Act of 1913, we will dedicate resources to providing post-settlement support to the beneficiaries of land restitution in the province to ensure that acquired land is used productively."
The premier singled out six land reform farms that are receiving infrastructure and technical support from the provincial government in the current financial as part of its efforts to ensure the sustainability of these ventures.
The six recipients are Syferlaagte Trust, Tutubala CPA, Seven Seasons CPA, Mogakabe CPA, Ikageng CPA and Emarantia farm.
The province has also planned to build long-term commercial support for projects such as these by helping to improve access to markets for smallholder producers through the department of agriculture's Mahikeng and Taung farmers markets. This has been done in partnership with the North West University and farmers around the two centres. The feasibility of introducing similar markets in Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Bojanala district municipalities was being studied.
"It is with pride that we can state that the North West province is to date the only province in the country where the comprehensive African agricultural development programme (CAADP) has been launched and a provincial CAADP team established comprising of representatives from various key sector role players," the premier said.
The CAADP is an initiative of the African Union Commission and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency that seeks to promote agriculture in all African countries.
Broader commercial farming opportunities
Addressing the broader commercial farming opportunities being created in the province, Modise highlighted the creation of the provincial aquaculture and fisheries programme in November last year, which is being implemented in partnership with Rhodes University.
Six dams have already been identified to promote inland fisheries and aquaculture. The provincial department of agriculture is driving efforts to strengthen institutional arrangements in these dams through co-operation with the departments of water affairs and economic development, environment, conservation and tourism.
Other activities in the agricultural sector include the Kgora Farmer Training Centre that was opened in the past financial year and provides training to farmers who receive government support. The province has partnered with the Netherlands Practical School to provide the necessary training to the farmers, as well as passing on skills to the centre's trainers.
"Kgora Training Centre, among others, will include upgrading the skills of farmers through technical, business and management training to equip farmers with the requisite skills to farm successfully. In addition, a project for food security and empowerment for vulnerable groups was also launched.
"This project seeks to ensure that vulnerable groups are taught how to plough their own food to ensure that they gain access to nutritious food," said Modise.
Sustainable job creation is a constant theme of the action plans of the province's departments, with the premier announcing significant long-term and temporary job gains.
The expanded public works programme was the major contributor, creating 21 196 job opportunities. An additional 3 172 jobs were created in various projects aimed at upgrading and constructing school infrastructure.
The agriculture sector produced an additional 1 502 jobs through more than 400 projects that touched the lives of almost 20 000 farming community beneficiaries, she said.
Job creation through the support of emerging entrepreneurs is another area in which the provincial administration has made some headway, particularly through its R22-million SMME fund.
Modise said more than R18.5-million had already been issued in loans to 96 recipients who had created 263 permanent and 97 temporary jobs.
She added that youth empowerment is being prioritised this financial year through entrepreneurial and occupational skills development programmes. The main thrust of this would be to establish 19 youth cooperatives and non-profit organisations, and enrolling 95 young people in sustainable livelihood and entrepreneurship development programmes.
Other areas in which employment opportunities were created include the 35 home community-based care centres and 25 drop-in centres that have been established to address the impact of HIV/Aids in communities.
A total of 1 732 jobs were created through this programme, which reached 30 233 beneficiaries with food parcels, school uniforms, cooked meals and supplements.
Matters of state
Turning to matters of state and broader service delivery issues, Modise said the provincial administration would continue to enhance the functioning of ward committees to promote local participation in development and service delivery matters.
This was being driven primarily through 382 ward committees that have been established in the province's 383 wards. The remaining ward committees were expected to be established shortly. Support has been provided to these committees in the form of induction workshops to familiarise members with their duties and the relevant legislation. "We are moving in the right direction where our municipalities are concerned," she said.
"We still have challenges, but we are winning the battle. All our municipalities were able to submit their financial statements on time by deadline of 31 August 2012."
Part of the province's turnaround strategy involved the establishment of oversight committees in line of the Municipal Finance Management Act requirements. The premier reported that a 70% debt recovery rate is expected to be achieved.
She said 11 municipalities have been supported to improve their records management, which will contribute towards improved audit outcomes, and all 19 local municipalities have implemented the Municipal Property Rates Act.
The department of local government and traditional affairs has also developed its 2016 Turnaround Strategy, which seeks to turn around the municipalities and traditional institutions in the province.
"As government, we are continuing to play our defined role in supporting the institution of traditional leadership to deal with the resolution of conflicts and issues of succession. By the end of March 2013, the Independent Electoral Commission will conduct elections for traditional councils. We hope this will bring stability to this institution," said Modise.
The extent of the support provided to municipalities was demonstrated, she said, by the recent intervention in the dispute between the City of Matlosana (Klerksdorp) and Eskom over multi-million rand arrears owed to the power utility.
"We are happy to announce that the issue of Matlosana municipality has been resolved and Eskom has agreed not to cut the supply of electricity in that municipality. We urge the community in Matlosana to continue to pay for the services and also urge government department to pay the municipalities.
"It is government's obligation to support, strengthen the capacity, and monitor and supervise municipalities to manage their affairs appropriately. We therefore could not just fold our arms and leave the situation unattended," she said.
A similar active intervention has been undertaken in the wake of the Marikana disaster in August last year. Apart from being host province to this particular incident and the affected mines, the North West is also home to a large percentage of the country's mineral resources.
"The death of the police and mine workers has shocked the people of this province and the world at large," said Modise.
"We are engaging with the mining houses to ensure does not repeat itself. On Monday (February 18) we witnessed the clashes between the NUM and AMCU in the Anglo Platinum Mine in Rustenburg. We are calling for a truce in the mining sector between the two rival unions … [and] are calling for [a] speedy recovery for those who have been injured."
This article was supplied and approved by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. It forms part of a larger supplement.