Blogs » WildCoast.Com's blog

Balancing diverse needs in developing Wild Coast

By OWETHU PANTSHWA on November 14, 2013 in Metro, Opinion (Daily Dispatch)

HOW does one address the coastal development and how, in particular, does one transform the Wild Coast into a strategic economic centre, not only for the province but for the country?

These are among the issues that will come under the spotlight at the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism’s Wild Coast Development Programme sessions in East London today and tomorrow.

Unlocking development of the Wild Coast could be a critical step in redressing the historic frontiers of underdevelopment based on segregation and colonialisation that have characterised this area for centuries.

There is generally massive interest in mixed use and tourism development, both from a political point of view and for the sake of the development of rural communities. But coastal development is very slow. In reality there are no developments that can bring about economic change and sustainable employment of these very deprived communities.

Communities in these localities – the OR Tambo District Municipality in particular – have high levels of unemployment and live far below the poverty line.

This contributes to the underdevelopment of the Eastern Cape and broadly adds to the inequalities of the country.

According to the World Bank, South Africa is regarded as one of the most unequal societies in the world, and recently East London was identified as one of the most unequal cities in the country. The development of the Wild Coast could go a long way in making a remedial impact.

The Wild Coast is highly regarded in terms of its natural beauty and environmental heritage, and there is a significant amount of virgin land available.

Two things that will have an impact on the development of the Wild Coast are the protection of the environment and land issues. If these two elements are not addressed, the development of the Wild Coast will remain a dream and not become a reality.

The protection of the natural environment and preservation of ecological processes, natural systems and beauty is critical in an area known for bio diversity. This can be addressed through environmentally friendly initiatives that have a long term outlook.

The Transkei Decree No 9, volume 17 has a direct effect on what and how we can develop the coastal areas, as do many other environmental policies both international and local.

Land issues involve challenges dating back to historic land reform practices, especially in the former homelands.

In the context of the Wild Coast, the land is de facto owned and occupied by African people who are custodians of the land, not the owners in terms of the common law.

The constitution is more concerned with basic rights than de facto rights.

The challenge of ownership leads to an unwarranted predicament of underdevelopment. This is due to an inability to develop land because of legislative guidelines which limit what can be done on particular portions of land.

In the land development paradigm, investments are concluded using civil rights where land is indigenously managed and owned. Such rights limit investment possibilities.

Before the recognition of indigenous laws as part of the legal system in South Africa, the subdivision of tribal land for investment purposes was possible.

However, when permission is granted to occupy land as part of “ownership” or recognised land occupancy, such ownership is not guaranteed in legal terms. For example, no legal system supports the establishment of townships on communal land.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has on many occasions emphasised that no investor is willing to invest when matters of land tenure are not addressed.

There are multiple challenges in terms of dealing with land tenure. In some rural areas there are conflicts where the clarity of the rights and responsibilities are involved. Procedures must be adopted to deal with such challenges.

Current aspects such as the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, Act No 31 of 1996 have not yet yielded any positive outcomes and are not a solution to development projections.

In rural areas, the issue of securing land ownership is complicated, difficult to achieve and less secure than elsewhere. Constitutionally, insecure tenure of land must be secured in terms of Section 25, subsection 6 of the constitution.

This paradoxically leads to a complicated situation wherein the secured ownership can only be achieved through the registration of property boundaries.

This limitation has to be addressed before development of the Wild Coast can take off. Therefore, parliament has to come up with legislation that deals with security of tenure.

The Communal Land Rights Act, Act No 11 of 2004, was declared unconstitutional on the basis of land rights and the strong prominence on usufructuary rights.

This was to prepare for a freehold land tenure system to allow recognised land ownership by communities. The contractual obligations based on common law would only be considered in areas where land could be registered.

This was to protect the interests of the private sector as land can be repossessed and be sold to a willing buyer in the event that different parties are not fully satisfied or do not agree on some of the conditions of agreements.

Currently, the indigenous law system places more emphasis on community ownership than individual ownership, which is a strong characteristic of the ubuntu philosophy. However, this must lead to direct benefits of the abantu (people).

In order to address these complexities, traditional leaders in different structures must be mobilised. Traditional leaders are in support of the Wild Coast development. However an approach needs to be taken that will benefit all the parties involved.

Wild Coast development will address underdevelopment in rural areas by creating employment and addressing poverty. It will also address social issues associated with underdevelopment such as migration and urbanisation.

In the event of the status quo remaining, it would be advisable to provide infrastructure development as well as feasible business initiatives and incentives for potential investors.

Further, there is a need for capacity building of local SMMEs, youth and unemployed communities. A radical approach should be taken in order to deal with issues of interconnectedness in our backward economies.

It is in the interests of the state to see the developments taking off in these historic underprivileged areas and support some development trajectories. In the case of the former Transkei, there were always stringent requirements and in the post-apartheid South Africa this should not be the case.

Initiatives must also be driven by communities and clear community benefits must be outlined for affected areas.

The power should remain with the traditional leadership and development must not be seen as taking away their mandated powers. Such an approach will limit the possibility of conflict that is often the case in some developments.

There is often a challenge and a feeling that people in some communities are at times enemies of their own prosperity. This is evident in the objections received to the proposed coastal N2 where some communities objected to proposals that would benefit them.

Therefore, development must be understood to be about social change and evolution with the people owning the process.

Owethu Pantshwa is director of planning and development, for the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Add new comment