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by PLAAS in 2018

PLAAS engages in sustained and meaningful ways with key sectors in society – often those who are not in conversation with one another. We work with government in a variety of ways at a senior level. We work closely with social movements, non-governmental organisations, and with small-scale farmer organisations as well as agribusiness. We provide input to the private sector, especially financial institutions, both in South Africa and abroad. And we shape global perceptions of the South African land question by briefing international diplomatic and investor missions and via extensive media exposure.

With all these relationships, we are in a unique position to listen as well as to inform, and to shape and transmit key ideas and shape the emerging narrative and potential areas of consensus for a way forward.

To enable PLAAS to continue to play this role, we need to achieve financial sustainability. Currently, as a relatively small institute, largely reliant on donor-funded short-term research projects, we manage to punch above our weight in public debate, but this may not always be possible. If we cannot retain our staff, and cover our core operational costs, we will not be able to continue to play our role. We need a sustainable financial basis, an endowment fund that can provide a sustainable stream of income to enable our operations to continue.

by PLAAS in 2018

This brochure is a celebration of more than 23 years of research, teaching and policy engagement at PLAAS. Catch a snap shot of our publications, research areas, research partnerships, public engagement, media engagement, teaching, and staffing over the last two decades.

by Michael Aliber in 2015

(Draft chapter for ‘Land Divided Land Restored. Land Reform in South Africa for the 21st  Century’ edited by Ben Cousins and Cherryl Walker, Jacana Media, 2015) 

If there is one thing regarding land reform in South Africa about which there is near-universal agreement, it is that the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ (WB/WS) approach is problematic. At the 2005 Land Summit, for instance, the commission which addressed redistribution reported a ‘consensus on rejection of willing buyer, willing seller (except Agri SA)’, while the overall report noted, ‘The overwhelming majority of participants in the Summit rejected the notion that the land reform process should be based solely on the notion of willing seller-willing buyer. Ten years on, these remain fair assessments of prevailing sentiments on the matter. 
The rejection of WB/WS is largely based on two overlapping but distinct concerns. First, people allege that WB/WS is mainly responsible for the slow pace of land reform. And second, WB/WS is the ugly face of the ‘property clause’ of the 1996 Constitution, which some critics argue protects largely white landowners at the expense of the disenfranchised and thus also helps explain the slow pace of land reform. 
In the light of this apparent consensus, Fred Hendricks poses an astute question: ‘Why then does the government persist with this palpably inappropriate policy, given the widespread recognition that it does not work? The current impasse seems all the more odd given that, complementing the ‘widespread recognition’ that WB/WS is the main problem with the pace of land reform, there is a shared conviction that there are superior alternatives. These have remained more or less the same for some years, and have been repeatedly touted by senior government leaders: namely expropriation, land tax and the application of ‘just and equitable compensation’. Some critics of WB/WS, of course, go further, suggesting constitutional amendments to the property clause or endorsement of Zimbabwe-style land invasions.  


by Margareet Visser, Shane Godfrey in 2017

The paper explores one aspect of the food security question, namely the livelihoods of farmworkers, which ultimately speaks to the sustainability of farms and the provision of food. It focuses on the emergence of locally made private social codes (Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association – WIETA, and Sustainability Initiative of South Africa – SIZA) in the Western Cape fruit and wine sectors and how compliance with such codes has increasingly become a requirement to export to certain markets (being an aspect of vertical governance in the fruit and wine value chains). Many standards in private social codes duplicate rights in national legislation, but some standards improve on statutory rights and certain enabling standards that offer leveraging opportunities to worker organisations to further improve wages and working conditions. Such leveraging constitutes a form of horizontal governance of the fruit and wine value chains. The paper analyses key sections of the two locally made social codes against the Fairtrade code and Sectoral Determination 13 (SD13). The analysis indicates where the codes improve on SD13 and how they compare to the Fairtrade code, which is generally seen to offer the best enabling standards for workers. The paper then presents the results of empirical research on the extent to which worker organisations – that is, trade unions and labour-oriented non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – have leveraged relevant standards to effect improvements for workers. The role of the state in facilitating such leveraging is also explored. The paper finds that, in general, worker organisations have little knowledge of the WIETA and SIZA codes and hardly any attempts have been made to leverage the codes. The only contestation of the codes that had a significant impact was from an actor outside the sector and country, namely the documentary film-maker who produced Bitter Grapes. The paper questions why worker organisations have made so little of the codes. The low capacity of such organisations is one explanation, but these organisations are also disenchanted with the codes because WIETA’s and SIZA’s sanctioning of non-compliance has been insufficient. However, probably the main reason for the failure to leverage codes is that they focus on the farm rather than the value chain. This focus excludes (primarily) global retailers and the failings in vertical governance from an assessment of the limited impact of codes. On the one hand, it is evident to many that codes are more for appearances to mollify consumers, rather than to drive real changes in working conditions and labour relations on farms. On the other hand, in terms of farmers’ bargaining power vis-à-vis global buyers and worker organisations’ ability to make gains for workers by leveraging the codes, the effectiveness of the codes’ horizontal governance has been seriously undermined by the South African state.

by David Neves in 2017

This report draws on livelihoods-based analysis, in order to examine rural development, and rural development policy, within South African’s former ‘homeland’ (or ‘bantustan’) communal areas. The report commences by describing the larger context of the former homelands or bantustans, before defining ‘rural development’ and tracing policymakers’ efforts to facilitate and effect it within post-apartheid South Africa. This constitutes the broad context for the research, which serves to ‘frame’ the subsequent discussion and detailed analysis of rural livelihoods. After prefacing discussion of the policy context of rural development, the research questions and research methodology used to examine rural livelihoods in the communal areas are presented. This is followed with a brief contextualising discussion of the specific research site. The report then presents an abridged summary of household case studies derived from the qualitative data. This data is subsequently used to build a theoretically informed account of impoverished and vulnerable rural livelihoods within South Africa’s present-day communal areas. This account expounds on both the larger structural determinants of impoverished rural livelihoods, along with the micro-dynamics of household level, livelihood-making practices. It is argued that these dual elements – the larger structural determinants and everyday household level practices – cumulatively come to shape how households diversify their activities and engage with the four key ‘constitutive domains’ of rural livelihood making described in the report (viz. wages, social welfare grants, informal economic activity and agriculture). Households’ engagements with these ultimately come to pattern household social differentiation, which is, in turn, explicated in a livelihoods-informed typology of communal rural households, presented at the conceptual heart of the report. The conclusion of the report draws on the implications of this analysis of livelihoods and social differentiation, for understanding how rural development policy is conceptualised and implemented in the context of South Africa’s communal areas.