n African Renaissance - Transforming the labour reserve? Asymmetries of the new agrarian policy in South Africa

Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


A central feature of the emerging strategy of the South African government on rural development is its almost exclusive focus on the communal areas, or 'former homelands', as they are commonly known, as the 'rural areas' within which the envisaged development will take place. Paradoxically, these rural areas are also seen as having some intrinsic capacity to provide the basis for a thorough-going agrarian transformation process that should lead not only to the eradication of poverty but to 'vibrant and sustainable' communities characterised by high employment, reasonable incomes and decent living standards. These regions, established as labour reserves in the wake of the well-documented processes that spanned the past three and a half centuries, of land dispossession, forced proletarianization, social and economic marginalisation, and underdevelopment in South Africa, have indeed seen little change since 1994. Battered by the combined effects of increasing urban unemployment, mirrored by aggravated rural poverty and inequality, these regions in fact entered the current era of multi-racial democracy already in a severe spiral of deepening decline and the generalised pauperisation of households and communities.

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