Problem solving

Do state officials have too many balls in the air to keep track? Or are they simply determined to act in whatever way they see fit?

While everyone has their eyes on Marikana, other potentially critical events are missed. Not that the Marikana tragedy should be ignored. People need to know why 34 people died at the hands of those tasked with protecting the public. But meanwhile, another crisis has been brewing at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) during the past two weeks.

While I don’t condone students striking, I am no supporter of poor leadership. Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande seems to be otherwise occupied, while TUT comes to a standstill. The vice-chancellor, Nthabiseng Ogude, has reacted by chasing both striking and non striking students off campus and evicting resident students.

So Ogude and her staff are going to work, running an education institution with no students. The manner in which the evictions took place is worrying. Do we not live in a democratic country where evictions are served with a 30-day notice period? Besides, not all students took part in the strike, and some of the students evicted are not local and cannot afford to go home.

They are struggling to find accommodation and squeezing in with friends. Farmers are dealt with fairly stringently when it comes to the eviction of farm workers. And so it should be. I don’t believe anyone should be kicked out of their place of residence without good reason and proper notice. And this includes TUT students.

Land act
Next year is the official centenary of the infamous 1913 Land Act, a law that saw many black people moved off their land. Will Minister Nkwinti show much progress in the way he has addressed the wrongs perpetrated by this Act? A recent recapitalisation workshop in Johannesburg was attended by North West farmer Gideon Morule, a farm lessee for almost 30 years; Thabo Mokone and 200 farmers of the Mahata Mmoho Farmers Association, who have been leasing farms in the West Rand since 1996; and the land reform beneficiaries occupying more than 600 government farms but holding no title.

At the workshop, the farmers pleaded with Nkwinti to give them title to their farms. “In a market economy, progress can be measured against accumulation of assets, including land,” said Hans van der Merwe, Agri SA president. “It is an important element of reward for effort in a competitive environment. Lack of ownership implies lack of collateral, which complicates access to finance and inhibits production and investment.”

Nkwinti’s spokesperson says government has decided not to give title to farmers for fear they will sell the farms back to commercial farmers. According to Mike Mlengana, African Farmers Association of South Africa president, there are ways around the problem like giving government an option to purchase in the sale agreement, and writing in the state’s right to expropriate farms that are inappropriately used. The deaths in Marikana, the eviction of TUT students and the denial of title to farmers seems to point to an attitude that government seeks solutions only from within.