The government has announced its intentions to enact an policy that revives the farm equity share scheme.   The context in which the policy proposals for equity scheme is set is not new.  The Freedom Charter has been there since 1955, the final Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, since 1996 and Agenda 21 since 1997.  There has been a plethora of laws through which government could have achieved the same outcomes envisaged in the new proposals.  The country’s new development blueprint, the National Development Plan, is the only most recent document.

The question therefore for some may be, what will be different this time around.  There may be possible answers to this question.  For instance, it may be argued that, yes indeed, there has been good laws, developed within the same context, with the same aspirations, but the task of realising these was left to one government department.  However, this time, there seems to be a considerable acceptance of the National Development Plan, which is expected to galvanise various government departments and private sector to work towards achieving common goals.  This argument may have merit.  But the experience of good policies and poor implementation during the past 20 years will not easily be forgotten, and can be expected to feed scepticism among some.

Be that as it may, the fact that we now have these proposals is a positive development, especially for the farm workers and farm dwellers whose living and working conditions remained the same after 1994, despite good policies and laws.  There are those who may have already lost hope that their situation would ever change.  If anything, these proposals raise new hopes that there is yet another chance to discuss the impact of the past 20 years with a view to fix what went wrong.  For those who have been served better by the policies of the last 20 years fear these developments.  Organised agriculture and agribusinesses have already voiced their misgivings about the proposed changes.  Some among them question the viability of the proposed changes, asking questions about what happens to the debts that the existing farmers have accumulated.

With these questions and many others that will be submitted, clarity on how these proposals will be implemented will emerge.  This is the space where social movements will also play.  It is the duty of their partners to support them so that their voices are not drowned out by the more organised and well-resourced commercial agricultural unions and agribusinesses.  SACBC Justice and Peace will seek to play such a role in relation to the social movements that are its partners.