Changing the nature of the conversation on land reform by Brian Whittaker on 30 March 2015
It is hard to see how the many different things happening in land reform come together to meet our constitutional obligations in a sustainable way.
Valuable work is being done by communities, government officials, private companies, academics, consultants and development agencies in support of land reform.
I am sure that we can all tick off some successes. But it is as if we are each working away in our own corner of the forest making our own paths as we struggle through the undergrowth. Policy and legislative directives intended to forge a common route collide with competing ideas of where we are and how we got here and conflict with alternative perspectives on where we should be heading.
Discussions are conducted in short, shrill sound bites. There is not enough time to listen. Views that don’t accord with our own are dismissed as unjust or unworkable.
The nature of the conversation must change if we are to make progress. The development of scenarios for the future of land reform is intended to create a space and start a process where the nature of the conversation can change.
The attempt is to move away from arguing about what “will” happen or “should” happen. But rather to try to build a shared appreciation among people from different perspectives on alternative scenarios of what could happen.
This frees us all from having to persuade one another to adopt our view of the world. In deed the objective is to capture different world views in the alternative scenarios.
When we launched Vumelana 3 years ago we set out to help communities to establish commercial partnerships to develop land acquired under the land reform programme.
The business model we use is designed to reduce the risks for those who are involved in the development of community private partnerships.
We do that by making available skilled advisors who help communities and private partners negotiate agreements that are fair to both parties.
– We pay the advisors.
– The communities and the private investors are free to walk away from the negotiation at any time prior to signing an agreement and Vumelana will carry the loss.
– If an agreement is signed the investor reimburses Vumelana the transaction fee.
– We reapply the reimbursed fee to a capacity building programme for the community.
We have reviewed over 200 applications for support. These include restitution, redistribution and tenure reform projects in a range of sectors: tourism, agriculture, forestry and energy.
We understood when we started Vumelana that this would be one contribution among many. Some progress is being made and we hope that our supporters believe their resources are being well used. But much more is needed if real change is to occur.
Read more on why we have launched this process: Promoting land reform scenarios