Development Strategy for South Africa

South Africa at present suffers from the following major contradictions and chasms, namely, the contradiction/chasm between

1.    The city and the countryside,

2.    The White-controlled urban and rural economy, on one hand, and the African rural economy, on the other hand,

3.    The Rich in our nation, on one hand, and the Poor, on the other hand, differentiating Whites, Africans, Indians, and Coloureds according to income.

4.    Youth and the Old generation

5.    African culture, on one hand, and non-African cultures (of Whites, Indians, and Coloureds), on the other hand.

I am presenting here a strategy for the elimination of these contradictions and chasms in our society, thereby eliminating poverty, unemployment, under-development, hatred, chauvinism, and crime.




The first point to stress is that current South Africa is not an urban society, but an overwhelmingly rural society, if we consider where the majority of people live.

Here are the figures released in 1997 by Statistics South Africa:

Urban                 Non-Urban

KwaZulu/Natal                                  43.5%                     56.5%

Eastern Cape                                      37.3%                     62.7%

Mpumalanga                                      37.3%                     62.7%

North West                                         34.8%                     65.2%

Limpopo                                             11.9%                     88.1%

Gauteng                                               96.4%                    3.6%

Western Cape                                      89.9%                    10.1%

Northern Cape                                     71.7%                    28.3%

Free State                                             69.6%                    30.4%

It is clear from these figures that the overwhelming majority of the population of the country, Africans, is still largely rural, even overwhelmingly rural.

The fundamental economic problem of our country is contained in the statement made in November 2000, by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms. Lindiwe Hendricks: “Our recent survey finds that one out of two people in rural SA do not have food to consume in a day.” (Business Day, 21 November 2000, p. 2) 

The Development Bank of South Africa, in a survey of anti-poverty strategies in the country, concluded that the Government Development Strategy has failed to address this problem. Rural development strategies, so far, are heavily weighted in favour of assisting small Black farmers intent on becoming successful in Commercial Agriculture. The considerable moneys and attention being given to small Black farmers do not reach the millions of people in Communal Lands: these millions of people are so poor that they do not qualify to be considered as small commercial farmers! They live a hand-to-mouth existence, i. e., they are in self-subsistence agriculture. Here is an example from KwaZulu/Natal: The KwaZulu/Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs has told us that more than half of all arable land in the Province, 5.4 million hectors, is in Communal Land areas, under the sovereignty of Traditional Leaders. Note that this is the source of the heavy statistics on poverty, diseases, social misery, and underdevelopment in KwaZulu/Natal. It must be noted that “SIYAVUNA”, the development project in rural areas which gives the Department great pride, does not have as its target this heaviest and largest site of poverty, hunger, and misery in African rural areas of the Province!


Communal Land, and rural areas, loom very large in the physical and human configuration and portrait of South Africa. The future of our country depends directly on what we do, and what we fail to do, on Communal Lands and rural areas.


The extreme poverty in Communal Lands and rural areas is forcing millions of people to move to our cities and towns. In other words, poverty and social misery are migrating from rural areas to cities and towns! Our cities and towns do not have the infra-structure sufficient and powerful enough to bear this heavy weight. Hence, the Housing crisis, the Health and Hospital crisis, the unemployment crisis, the School crisis, the Government Budget crisis, and the alarming crime statistics, and social-sexual pathologies in our communities.

The economists advising our leaders have ignored a basic principle of elementary economics. A market economy needs commodities and buyers of commodities.  There must be consumer demand for commodities, and buying power possessed by those demanding the commodities.

An axiom of US economics is that the consumer demand and buying power of the majority members of US society is the driving engine of the US economy. The World Bank and IMF long ago said that the weakness of the South African economy is the smallness of its domestic market. Why is it small? There are historical reasons for that: racism, which only developed a small sector of the population of the country –the White Community; job reservation; migrant labour system; colonialism; the impact of capitalism and imperialism on colonized and semi-colonial societies. This resulted in the development of Whites (tiny section of society), on one hand, and the underdevelopment of the overwhelming majority of society, the African population. This brought about the economic ruin of African rural communities. This is the nub of the problem of the capitalist economy in Africa, and the problem in our economy and society; the overwhelming majority of the population are the poor, starving African people in underdeveloped rural areas. This majority section of society is not an able participant in the country’s market economy. This is what constitutes the smallness of the domestic market, which the World Bank and IMF call the weakness of our economy.



Our strategy should be the following:

  • Our first focus should be the households in every village of Communal Lands, who cannot produce enough food to eat each day. These households are the majority in every village; hence the food crisis in rural areas. Our program of action, in this respect, should be to put in place a process for increasing the capacity of every household in the village to produce enough food to meet their basic needs. We shall mobilize the resources and skills needed for this part of the project, and put in place an implementation plan and program.
  • We should also start a campaign, and educational project, to encourage urban farming. We can learn a lot about urban farming from the experience of Cuba.

A start can be made, in most cases, right where we are, even before we solve the “land question”. The land on which most rural Africans stay, and depend for survival, is non-productive land. A national, loud public campaign, a loud propaganda campaign, needs to be started, on Radio, on Television, in newspapers, in schools, in Taxis, in Billboards, in sports fields, about this new economic policy which should involve and touch almost all the people.

This issue and cause should receive the high profile attention which liberation movements wanted to win for the liberation struggle.  Our leaders must champion this campaign, travel around rural areas, and give top priority to this programme and policy.

  • The second focus shall be on those households with already developed capacity to enter the field of commercial agriculture. These are already catered for in the on-going programs of the Department of Agriculture, DBSA, etc. We shall enter into partnership with such developers.
  • Addressing the problem of food security also means addressing the problem of malnutrition and diseases. The basis of good health is good nutrition.  Increasing the capacity of every household for the production of food for daily consumption is an easily measurable and identifiable output, with clear timelines (harvest time).
  • We shall also put in place a program of repairing the damages on the bodies and appearances of rural people, resulting from malnutrition. In other words, while waiting for a good harvest, we shall supply vitamin-mineral supplements, and educate the members of each village on how to take these supplements, and on the crucial importance of these supplements. This plan of action shall soon bear fruit in changes in the eyes, faces, skin and bodies of the poor: this shall have immense effects on the health of the people. This plan of action shall also penetrate into the schools.
  • The outcome here is not only the repairs on the bodies of masses of poor people in rural areas, but also a great financial saving for the government, as the health of our people improves, resulting in vast reduction of pressure on our health facilities –savings on monies to be paid for medicine, for hospital beds, linen, doctors’ and nurses’ services, etc.

Our development strategy is comprehensive and multi-dimensional.

However, as we solve the food crisis we shall put in place processes for the all-round development of communities in the various spheres of health, education, road construction, housing, science and technology, arts and culture, all in harmony with the cultural traditions of the people, and in harmony with the programs already designed and being implemented by various arms of government and civil society.


  • Another policy activity shall be to increase the capacity, and to boost the imagination of those individuals, households, groups, or villages, or companies, that want to develop rural industries or agribusiness. Another policy activity should be aimed at developing the infrastructure of transportation; boosting the imagination of rural people in designing and constructing culture-friendly and appropriate housing (not duplicating township houses in African rural areas); developing proper health care facilities, and boosting and empowering the imagination of rural people in fostering health care; developing the infrastructure for education, and mobilizing local cultures to facilitate education in rural areas, not just the education of the young, but also the education of adults; supporting and empowering the development and production of the arts; and research and development of traditional African crops, as well as of African traditional medicine . We are talking here about the totality of rural development.

I emphasize: the starting point in this regeneration, transformation, and development of our economy and society is the focus on rural areas occupied by Africans and Coloured people.



The core, starting activities in rural development, which shall have enormous, multi-dimensional spinoffs, are the following:

1.    Food Production, eliminating Hunger, malnutrition, and food-related diseases

2.    Road Construction in rural areas, using appropriate technology

3.    Small-scale Power Stations (Underground Gasification Process in closed Coal Mines), Bio- and Synthetic Fuels (e. g., the Tree Project)

4.    Appropriate Health-Care Measures in Rural Areas, consisting of a mix of scientifically proven Modern Western Medicine and Traditional (Alternative) Medicine.

5.    Incorporation of Modern Information Technology in Rural Development, facilitating transformation of masses of rural people into citizens of the First World (closing the Digital Divide).

6.    Solving the Water Problem in rural areas


The important point is that this shall have an enormous, positive psychological effect on society as a whole; it shall give rise to hopeful activity within the country-at-large. It shall inject hope, inspiration, and purpose, into the minds and spirit of the masses of society members in our country, and shall create a sense of purpose to millions of people in society.


Focus on rural people, and on rural areas, benefits the urban economy, simply because the monies that go into the pockets of rural people are used by rural people to buy goods and services produced in urban areas. Therefore, such developments in rural areas, among rural people, become stimulants to the urban economy, and add dynamism to the entire economy. This contributes towards increasing the purchasing, or buying power, or consumer demand, of the masses of African people.

Developing the 60 to 70 percent of our population currently in rural and semi-rural areas means, in effect, creating a wider and bigger market for goods and services than currently exist.


This shall have enormous spin-off effects in the entire economy, both nationally and internationally. It is the development of the buying power of the masses of African people, and the creation of a bigger and wider market than currently exist, which shall stimulate the development and growth of the entire economy of the nation; it is the development of the buying power of the millions of African people, A which shall then become an attraction for foreign investment.


TO THE COUNTRYSIDE!” should be the slogan of the entire country.


We need to plan and schedule visits by urban people to the rural areas, to see for themselves the poverty and debilitating underdevelopment of rural people. This is a necessary awakening, education, and moral empowerment of urban people, especially of our legislators, civil servants, and government leaders; and also of our urban youth, trade unions members, and ordinary urbanites –above all Whites, Indians, and Coloureds and Africans living in cities.


We cannot address the fundamental problems in front of us without a comprehensive Cultural Revolution in the country.

The most difficult challenge to Whites, Indians, and Coloureds, and to educated Africans, is to change their mind-set, which is largely Western, and to be willing to go to ordinary African people in rural and semi-rural areas, to learn from these ordinary African people the principles and patterns of African civilization.

For Whites, Indians, Coloureds, and African youth in Model C schools, the first challenge is to learn African languages. This can only be done genuinely from the inside of African communities. Therefore, Whites, Indians, Coloureds, and Urban Africans must get inside the communities in Communal Lands. The manner in which this “getting inside the African rural community” should be done can be put on the agenda for discussion; undoubtedly, many good ideas and suggestions shall emerge.

During holiday seasons, hundreds of thousands of Chinese youth and professionals go to the Western region of China, the most underdeveloped but richly endowed region, to do constructive development work in the communities. We should also organize hundreds of thousands of urban people, youth, religious groups, of all races and ethnic groups, to go to communities in Communal Land areas, to do constructive, development work.

Everyone shall become transformed by this experience; this shall be the re-education of the entire nation, from which shall result true reconciliation between different races, between urban people and rural people, and between youth and adults and the aged.

This should be accompanied by fruitful, vigorous discussions involving urban people and rural people, involving African, White, Indian, and Coloured people.

From this experience shall also emerge new conceptualizations of democracy, brotherhood and sisterhood and UBUNTU.



African civilization was born and developed in the Village Communes. We can regenerate and develop our economy, society, morality, intellectual and spiritual life, and all our human relations, through focusing initially on rural areas, where the majority of our people stay, and linking and integrating rural and urban. This is a development strategy for the entire economy of South Africa, which begins in rural areas and stretches to the towns and cities of the country.


About Professor Herbert W. Vilakazi

Professor Herbert Vilakazi was born at Nongoma, KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. He received his tertiary education at Columbia University, and at the New School For Social Research, both in New York City, USA. He has taught sociology and other social sciences at various tertiary institutions in and around New York City (City College of City University, Essex County College in Newark, Livingstone College, and State University of New York). He has also taught at the University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University), University of the Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town, and University of Zululand. He served as Deputy-Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission from 1998 to 2004. He has also served as Special Advisor to the Premier of KwaZulu/Natal (2005-2007). He is Chairperson of Vilakazi Development Strategies.
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One Response to Development Strategy for South Africa

  1. i meam lots of advocasy needed,hope we as citizens catch the wake up call on food security and rural development.

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