President Ramaphosa has announced a new cabinet, and among the notable appointments is PAC leader Mzwanele Nyhontso as the new Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development. His appointment has received varying reactions, but I believe it underscores the crucial importance of land reform in our country.

Land reform remains fundamental in our pursuit of social justice and economic stability. It’s not just about redistributing land; it’s about ensuring that those who receive the land can use it productively and sustainably. This is where capacity building and good governance practices for Communal Property Associations (CPAs) come into play. As communities navigate the complexities of land ownership and utilisation, training and empowering CPA members are vital for the sustainable use of restored land and for ensuring stability within these communities.

Addressing social inequality, fostering economic development, and ensuring the productive use of land are all significant roles that land reform can play. However, the success of land reform heavily relies on the capacity of beneficiaries to use their land effectively. The government faces significant obstacles, including limited financial and institutional capacity to support land reform beneficiaries adequately.

According to the 2022/2023 Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD), capacity and governance challenges within CPAs remain a pressing concern across the country. While some CPAs are flourishing, the majority are not compliant with the Communal Property Associations Act of 1998.

CPAs face numerous challenges, such as non-compliance with their constitutions, lack of operational policies and procedures, failure to hold essential meetings, and failure to prepare and produce annual financial statements. Rectifying these issues requires a concerted effort to enhance the governance capabilities of CPA executives. However, efforts are impeded by limited resources, logistical constraints, and varying levels of readiness among CPA members. The diverse social and economic contexts in which CPAs function further complicate capacity-building efforts.

Peter Setou, Chief Executive of the Vumelana Advisory Fund, a non-profit organisation that helps beneficiaries of the land reform programme use restored land productively to create jobs, income, and skills, emphasises the importance of sustained support and tailored interventions to address the capacity challenges facing CPAs.

Vumelana’s CPA Support Programme is designed to strengthen governance among land reform beneficiaries and within land-holding entities. Setou explains that well-governed institutions play a pivotal role in land reform by attracting investments, creating employment, and enabling communities to generate income and contribute to broader social and economic contexts.

The programme provides comprehensive interventions tailored to meet the unique needs of each beneficiary community. When governance structures within land-holding entities are strengthened, CPAs can effectively manage their assets and advance the objectives of land reform.

Vumelana has also developed a Capacity Needs Assessment Tool to guide the assessment and support for CPAs. This tool covers five main dimensions of governance and management: governance, membership services, financial management, administration, and social cohesion. These dimensions help identify areas for improvement to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of land reform beneficiaries.

In the past decade, it has become clear that private investors are hesitant to partner with poorly governed CPAs. However, effective interventions aimed at improving governance and better management of CPAs increase the chances for land reform beneficiaries to appeal to private investors. These partnerships enable communities to leverage their land holdings to foster economic development, generate income, create employment opportunities, access markets, and develop skills.

My commitment to capacity building is about ensuring that we enable communities to contribute to poverty alleviation, job creation, economic development, and a sustainable land reform programme. Land reform is a multi-stakeholder endeavour that should involve not only the government and land reform beneficiaries but also private investors and commercial farmers. These stakeholders have accumulated institutional knowledge that can contribute to transformative change in land reform.

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