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Land Divided Conference 2013

Academics and students participate in Land Divided Conference 2013.

Students and academics from across the globe participated in the Land Divided Conference 2013 at the University of Cape Town in March.

The three day conference was hosted by the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), the University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch.

The conference aimed to trace the roots of sometimes sensitive land questions. The conference commemorated the centenary of the 1913 Land Act, and examined the legacy and the meaning of The Natives Land Act of 1913, land reform and agrarian policy in southern Africa and the multiple meanings of land.

Mamphela Ramphele, academic and businesswoman, who spoke at the opening of the conference, said it was worrisome that South Africa was losing so many of its commercial farmers to countries north of South Africa.

Ramphele noted that fifteen years ago, there were 100 000 commercial farmers in our country; today, there are 36 000. “Fifty percent of commercial farmers in Zambia are from SA, and there are 800 formerly South African farmers in Mozambique. She mentioned that commercial farmers are needed to nurture and support the emergence of small farmers”.

The four-day conference was held 100 years after the passing of the segregationist 1913 Natives Land Act, which regulated and restricted the acquisition and ownership of land in South Africa by black people.

Ramphele noted that, 19 years into democracy, land questions continued to hold historic, emotional and symbolic significance. She said it also embodied a history of lost opportunity, which could have been used to enhance the country’s economic growth.

If the country really wants to take a creative approach to land reform, she insisted South Africa should be growing economically in double digits.  She said that inequality in South Africa was structurally created, and therefore needs structural remedies.

“We need to address structural economic inequalities engendered by the Land Act, and ensure that rural people are rights-bearing citizens, rather than subjects under the customary authority of chiefs,” said Ramphele.