The role of land reform in addressing women empowerment in the rural communal area of Nqandu, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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Endless debates on the land reform policy and the ‘radical’ proposed strategy of expropriating privately-owned land without compensation had South Africans questioning the effects of the strategy, and the unpopular decision to adjust Section 25 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Traditional leaders like King Zwelithini Goodwill, leader of the Ingonyama Trust, were reassured that communal land would not be included in the redistribution of land for the public interest– mainly because distributing privately–owned land entrusted to traditional leaders would violate the statutory land laws. What is not addressed in the communal land entrusted to traditional leaders is the protection of women’s right to land in patriarchal communal areas operating under customary laws. This discussion of women accessing rural land has resulted in an increasing number of women gaining opportunities to access and control residential and agricultural land. However, in practice, access to land does not guarantee sustainable use and ownership of the acquired land - rather, temporary access is given. Women’s control and ownership of communal land are dependent on their social networks and affiliations to men in their family and community. This study investigated the ownership of land as a factor of empowerment amongst women living in the rural community of Nqadu, which will be referred to as Nqadu throughout the study, and the existing relationship between traditional authorities and municipal officials in hindering or enhancing the power within the Nqadu women. In addition, the thesis highlighted where the Land Reform Policy and its gender-equality mandate is not upheld in the rural area of Nqadu, it also discussed reasons why it is not upheld and explore how women see the land reform policy as a mechanism for their enhanced and improved livelihood. The aim of this study was not merely to create enlightenment about the imbalances in women’s land ownership and control but to also to investigate women empowerment in relation to land ownership in Nqadu, Eastern Cape. The researcher argues that communal rural practices disregard gender mainstreaming and work as an isolated system apart from the prevailing norms in the legal systems in administering the allocation of land to women. To investigate the effects of the customary laws on the fulfilment of livelihood assets and its impact on the mobilisation of women to own and control land within communal traditional areas, the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) was employed. A mixed-methods approach was used, and semi-structured interviews and questionnaires and secondary statistical data were also utilised to support the qualitative data. To gain enlightenment on development of the tenure status in the Mbhashe local municipality, the municipal officials who are responsible for the land-related issues in Mbhashe were also interviewed. Due to data limitations within the primary statistical data, a greater focus was placed on the strategies used to handle land allocation in Nqadu, which is largely a male dominated traditional councils. In addition, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted alongside the collection of secondary data in the form of statistical data and policy documents, i.e MLM IDP and the DRDLR. Although the policies and programmes tabled by the DRDLR in relation to land reform have initiated conversation and implementation as far as land tenure is concerned, the coordination of the statutory and customary laws and practices are mutually exclusive. The Nqadu women continue to depend on social affiliation and structural relations within their relationships with the Nqadu men. It is advised that local and municipal government’s focus the target population for gender mainstreaming projects and gender-equal policy frameworks on men as much as women. This strategy will reduce the copying mechanism used to remain silent in households or communities that hinder their empowerment. Land reform has aided in the transformation of land from black to white, however, the proportion of women who have complete ownership and control over residential and agricultural land in communal rural areas is has not improved. Women must be provided the same opportunity to control assets like land, if not land reform will continue to be a political mechanism to empower of black people, or create a wealthier class within the black community but not all genders.