THE BLOG
02/05/2018 15:09 SAST | Updated 02/05/2018 22:03 SAST

Black Women Must Lead The Conversation On Land

Land is dignity and independence, and in our quest to restore dignity and independence to black people, black women must not be left behind.

Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

OPINION

On April 30, 2018, I attended a land summit at UNISA in which I was also a panelist. Without being biased as a former leader of the EFF Students Command, I must categorically state that the EFF, as represented by Mandisa Mashego, was the only political party that located black women in the conversation about land.

It is a legitimate concern for me that women own less than 20 percent of land in the world, and according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's data, the number plummets to 10 percent. Despite the overwhelming evidence that women are sidelined when it comes to land ownership, we still fail to centre women, and in particular black women, in our land debates.

Colonisation entrenched racialised dispossession against black people as a whole in Africa. Black people were robbed of their dignity and stripped of centuries of wealth by settlers who dispossessed the African people of land and ultimately of humanness.

The crime of dispossession is still yet to be addressed in South Africa, in contrast to other African countries like Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya and etc. With the passing of the motion in Parliament to expropriate land without compensation, we must begin to envision what expropriation of land without compensation will look like.

Black women and children, being the poorest and most marginalised in South Africa, should not find themselves ostracised and alienated from the conversation. It is no secret that the UNISA Land Summit was initially a boys' club — which sparked social media outrage about the event being void of women, and hence my invitation to be part of the panel.

The alienation of women from the land debate does not end in representation at these debates. Black women are genuinely alienated in all the countries we adore and aspire to be like.

We must ensure that women are not sidelined, with tradition and religion used as a yardstick to declare who deserves land more than the next person.

In Swaziland, widows and girl children are not considered for the succession of land, and often have to have external entities negotiate on their behalf to acquire rights to land. In Zambia, land activists who noted the injustice mobilised to have a bill passed in parliament that would have both the surnames of the husbands and wives on title deeds — but failed numerous times.

Women more often than not are left as only the workers of the land, and not equal owners and stakeholders . This due to the traditional and religious belief systems that are protected by the law in many parts of Africa.

In marriage, men are believed to be the "head of the house", making them the decision makers of what happens to the land and the profits made from it. Boy children are also considered to be heirs, and daughters not — in most cases, if there are no sons, then the land is returned to the male's family, leaving women and girl children destitute and landless.

The demographics of the country should be able to guide us on what the redistribution of land should be like. In simple terms, women should be leased the majority of the land by virtue of being the majority of the populace. We should ensure that women in urban areas and in rural areas are not subjected to an overwhelming male presence in land courts and land dispute institutions as deciding voices in the process of land claims and land redistribution.

We must ensure that women are not sidelined, with tradition and religion used as a yardstick to declare who deserves land more than the next person. We must equally ensure that the loopholes in our law, governance and political systems do not become the reason black women are left behind in land-lease certificates. Favouring and prioritising black women in land redistribution is in fact in favour of alleviating poverty.

Despite the fact that majority of the food supply is farmed by women, women run the majority of households and spend a much higher percentage of their income on their immediate families, compared to male counterparts. I personally urge black women (those living in rural areas, academics, queer women, land activists) to form part of the conversation on expropriation of land without compensation and make submissions to Parliament on how the bill and implementation of the bill should be carried out.

Land is dignity and independence, and in our quest to restore dignity and independence for black people, black women must not be left behind.