Rural Women\’s Assembly SA Statement on Sona

The Rural Women’s Assembly is a movement of poor women in villages, informal settlements and rural towns across the country. Many are small-scale producers, small-scale farmers, farmworkers, fishers and small informal traders selling vetkoeks and vegetables. We live from hand to mouth, many dependents on social welfare.

The SONA address delivered on 10 February 2022 did very little to inspire hope for rural poor, in particular women. The rhetorical SONA was very similar to previous ones delivered by President Ramaphosa. We once again expect very little positive intervention and implementation for the poor, unemployed and rural women while the gap of inequality is growing exponentially. SONA continued on the same trajectory favoring export commercial agriculture that favors insecure precarious temporary agricultural farmworker employment as opposed to permanent agricultural

labour. Every aspect of the government\’s policy promotes commercialisation of the commons, especially indigenous herbs. Government favors corporate agri-businesses who control capital, land, and infrastructure. RWA demands land with water to combat rural food insecurity instead of favouring cannabis production for capitalist gain.

The little support given by the government to small scale farmers only provides intermittent relief and not the continued input support needed by small scale agricultural producers. The proposed development of a Land Reform Agency sets off alarm bells as it conjures up images of black elite partnerships with agri-business funded by millions (if not billions) of state resources and our taxes. SONA is also numb

about the ruling party’s failed attempt to pass the Sections 25 Constitutional Reform. This despite a clear mandate from the country that recommended that “Section 25 of the Constitution must be amended and be clear about the expropriation of land and property without compensation. This will address historic wrongs of land dispossession, ensure fair access to land and empower the majority of

South Africans ”RWA demands a land audit, including public land proposed for the 14 000 houses.  Previous promises from Minister Didiza to release state land proved controversial and no report on actual beneficiaries and implementation was released. RWA also demands that clear targets be set for rural housing development in commercial farming areas and communal areas. RWA also demand consultation

processes to ensure that no high-density poverty trap housing developments are established. The written GBV legislation is not sufficient to address the crisis. RWA calls for GBV to be declared a national pandemic. Special resources should be made available to deal with the multi-faceted complexities of GBV, especially in rural communities. Paper legislation is not enough to deal with the GBV and femicide pandemic. Increasing women’s independence and economic wellbeing, through land

 access, will decrease their dependence on patriarchal powers and make them less susceptible to GBV and other forms of violence. RWA therefore demands land access for women through the “One Woman, One Hectare” policy and other specific legislation that targets land access for land insecure rural Women. President Ramaphosa’s plan to outsource vital government services to the “most competitive bidders” sets the country up for further disaster and unaffordable public services (e.g., unbundling of ESKOM and

privatizing Transnet’s security services). Its proposed establishment of a State-Owned Holding Company is disastrous and should/will be challenged by RWA and others. This will place the country in the hands of shareholders who are profit driven and will further increase unemployment, inequality, and poverty. Not to mention the opportunities for corruption in a country that is probably the world’s corruption capital. Moreover, the lack of any job creation strategy does very little to inspire confidence, especially of young people. This strategy continues to rely on the Extended public works programme which does not bring long-term meaningful relief to unemployed South Africans. Secondly, it favours dependence on the private sector – to create jobs that will lead to weaker labour legislation, increase in labour brokers and more precarious work. On the one hand SONA speaks about transitioning away from coal powered stations, and on the other hand it plans on increasing extraction of various minerals. Continued reliance on extractives has proven to destroy the environment and livelihoods, especially of women who are dependent on the land for survival, housing, social and cultural wellbeing. From this SONA’s strategy government remains highly dependent on foreign investment that will further sell the country to the highest bidder and will impact rural women’s access to land and water. Jobs promised through these initiatives are far too few compared to the millions of unemployed people. We as Rural Women Assembly therefore calls for an immediate face to face meeting with government to discuss its plans to remain below 1,5 degrees as well as its plans to transition away from coal supplied

electricity. We would also like to present our solutions to the Land Question, GBV and Climate Change and how to build resilience especially in the rural areas to ensure food security. We also want to highlight transitional strategies presented in the “One Million Climate Jobs” campaign, which RWA endorses as a detailed plan for a just transition away from fossil fuel dependence.

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