The battle for land reform in South Africa is a hugely emotional one that has been ongoing for decades since the end of apartheid. In short, in the early 1900s, Black people in the country were forcibly removed by colonisers from their land, and were strictly limited to the amount of land they could own.
This is one of the many ways that the country’s past regulations under colonisation, and later under the apartheid regime, oppressed the freedoms of Black people. In fact, even though Black people make up the majority of the country, they were allocated just 13% of the country's land under colonial rule. Apartheid ended 27 years ago, and with it, came the mission to make right the wrongs of the past.
The government and private entities have been working to accelerate land reform, and these efforts were given an incredible boost on Dec. 2, 2018, thanks to a huge financial commitment made by the Motsepe Foundation at Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100. Today, that commitment is steadily making progress, with King Enoch Makhosonke Mabhena II (King Mabhena), of the Ndebele nation, thanking the Motsepe Foundation for the “contribution that they've made to developing our poor, rural people.”
It’s almost unbelievable that the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 took place over three years ago — it feels as if it was just yesterday when we gathered as Global Citizens to celebrate what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. Incredible artists took to the stage at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg as South Africans — and the rest of the world — united in the need to take action to continue the late president’s legacy of working together to end poverty and its systematic causes.
Several dignitaries spoke that day, each committing to help uplift communities, share resources and dissolve inequalities. It was a momentous and united step towards eradicating poverty, and three years later, 117.8 million lives have been positively impacted by the pledges made on that stage.
One of the greater commitments was made by funding partner of the festival, and South African philanthropist, Patrice Motsepe, on behalf of the Motsepe Foundation and his family. Standing beside South Africa’s most prominent religious and traditional leaders, Motsepe pledged to help accelerate the process of land reform in the country.
“We are all coming together as leaders and members of our rainbow nation and are committed to work together to ensure that the current land reform discussions in South Africa in land where the requisites of resources, support, and skills are made available to Black people living in the rural and urban areas, and that a successful and secure future is created for Black farmers and their communities, and for white farmers and their communities,” he said.
“We are also committed to working together to build a bright future for the poor, for the unemployed and marginalised, and for all the people of our rainbow nation.”
King Mabhena II tells Global Citizen that the Motsepe Foundation’s commitment has had a great impact on the Ndebele community, particularly in the rural areas located in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces that King Mabhena oversees.
Through land reform, Black South Africans are able to sustain their communities through agriculture, so long as they are provided the skills and the resources. King Mabhena explains that the resources received through the Motsepe Foundation have helped to develop a farming community for the Ndebele nation.
“As you know, for people who are in rural areas we have got the tractors and implements, so that our people can plough vegetables,” he explains, detailing how the community has made use of the Foundation’s commitment, “and also so that they can employ others, especially our older women who are in our rural areas, so that they can get food ... and sell the food to others.”
Today, white people still dominate the agriculture space in South Africa, with the large majority of commercial farms being owned by them. This means that Black people, even those who own and have received land, face a large struggle to access the market to economically empower themselves.
King Mabhena explains that despite barriers such as these, he believes in the resilience of his people, and that is thanks to the empowerment they’ve received through the resources and implements the Motsepe Foundation has been able to provide them.
“I think our people should be able to say, last year we were here, and this year, we are here,” he said. He also went on to explain that there is an opportunity for strategic partnership with the larger commercial farms, so that the smaller communities can be uplifted.
“We don't want to compete with the big businesses,” he said, “but we are saying to the big businesses, let them come and help our people so that they can develop them, they can teach them the industry of farming, because we can't be rivaled. They are there. They are strong, but they can help our people so that we live a better life, all of us.”
This sentiment reflects Motsepe’s speech on the Mandela 100 stage, where the philanthropist stressed that through working together, land reform can be accelerated and a bright future can be achieved for all South Africans.
According to King Mabhena, the commitment made that day has also gone towards sinking boreholes in rural communities, refurbishing schools, building public toilets for schoolchildren to use, and establishing poultry farming in some areas.
“We thank the Motsepe Foundation so much ... for their contribution throughout South Africa, and that they are changing the lives of the poor people of this country,” King Mabhena said.