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(March 13, 2014)


The starting-point of the correct Development Plan for the Province of the Eastern Cape should be the tangible, intangible, and observable, reality of all the people of the Province, and all the material and cultural resources and the environment of the Province.


The Eastern Cape is heavily Rural, with the majority of citizens living in the countryside. The Province is heavily underdeveloped, very much similar to heavily underdeveloped nations of the world.


All the statistics on social life in Eastern Cape speak of severe poverty and deprivation: “The Eastern Cape tops the list of poor provinces in terms of exposure to average deprivation both in 2007 and 2011” (The Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Review and Outlook, Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 2013)

Life expectancy for males in Eastern Cape, between 2006 and 2011, was only 50.2 years, lower than the national average of 52.1 years; for females, it was 54 years, lower than the national average of 56 years.


Regarding the most basic life requirement, food, the Eastern Cape “has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in South Africa” (Ibid). While in the country as a whole, 64 percent of households are considered food insecure, in the Eastern Cape, the figure of food insecurity is 78 percent of households. “Further analysis of the characteristics of food insecure households show that the majority of food insecure households in the province reside in rural areas, are Africans, are headed by females, have larger family sizes, and have higher dependency rations” (Ibid.),


Another significant statistic is that the Eastern Cape has not registered any growth since 2002, judging by the province’s contribution to the National GDP.




Extreme poverty and underdevelopment in the Eastern Cape reveal not only a catastrophe in the South African economy, but also a severe crisis of South African economics. Almost 20 years ago, I stated this general crisis as follows:

“A crippling weakness of established South African economics is the invisibility in it of the masses of African people. The main concern of official economic policy is the ups and downs of the white-controlled economy, which has a very narrow base within the larger society, and within which the majority of Africans do not feature. We must counter-pose to this economic policy our own view: economics from the standpoint of the downtrodden” (Vilakazi, Herbert, “Time Ripe for Economics of the Ghetto”, City Press, 21 January 1996; also see Vilakazi, Herbert, “Rural Masses Key to Sick Economy”, Business Day, 19 August 1996, p. 9).


We not only have a catastrophe in the economy; we also have a catastrophe in our official thinking about our economy.


Some years ago, the then Deputy-President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, spoke in Parliament about the TWO nations co-existing side by side within the country called South Africa, one nation poor and underdeveloped, and the other nation rich and developed.


The Economics taught in our educational institutions fails to capture and understand this national problem correctly; consequently, the policy advice given to our political leaders by economists and other accepted intellectuals is wrong: as has been said, `false theory leads to incorrect policies’.


Economists and other intellectuals advising our political leaders base their advice on a model of economics constructed out of economic activities in developed, industrial capitalist countries. Modern economics is a study of developed, industrial capitalist countries. This economics is misplaced in an underdeveloped nation, or in a heavily underdeveloped Province such as Eastern Cape.


If we look at the economic history of the currently developed nations, what is clear is that successful industrialization was built upon a successful Agricultural Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was preceded by an Agricultural Revolution.




The peculiarity of South Africa is that the groundwork necessary in RURAL areas for the creation of a modern industrial society occurred ONLY in the WHITE Community. The Agricultural Revolution in South Africa occurred ONLY in the White Community; and the Industrial Revolution which occurred imparted industrial skills to the White community. Capital and wealth accumulated only in the White Community.


Consequently, the White Community was lifted above the African Community, hence the TWO NATIONS.




The African Community was left predominantly rural, unskilled, uneducated, ill-fed, ill-housed, with an environment and agriculture which was undeveloped, and which is deteriorating. All this, of course, has immense psychological-spiritual effects, disempowering masses of African people psychologically and spiritually. I must stress, too, that this entire process of development and underdevelopment caused immense damage to the psychological-spiritual health of the White community, as well as immense damage to the spiritual-psychological health of the peculiar South African Indian and Coloured communities


What needs to be stressed is that the underdevelopment and misery and poverty of the African countries, of rural Africans, is now DRAGGING DOWN the economy of the entire South African nation. The misery and poverty and underdevelopment of the African countryside is now migrating to urban areas, causing immense problems in the cities and towns. The unemployment of African rural areas becomes the massive unemployment in cities and towns.


This entire crisis becomes a crisis of government finance, a crisis of local government, a crisis of governance, a crisis of public services and our public institutions.


The massive underdevelopment of rural areas in the Eastern Cape becomes the underdevelopment of the entire Eastern Cape Province.


The most decisive factor shaping the economic-social fate of the Eastern Cape is the collapsed rural economy, which deforms and takes the wind out of non-rural economic activities in the cities, towns, the entire region, and the country as a whole.




The development of the Eastern Cape must begin in the countryside, in African rural areas!!




To get a better view and correct understanding of our fundamental national problem, picture Rural South Africa as a huge high-rise building with four floors. I shall start at the top:



The Top Floor is occupied by the Owners/Controllers of Big Corporate Agriculture, as well as by Owners/Controllers of the Big, Independent Commercial Farmers. These employ hundreds and tens of thousands of Farm workers. All these Owners/Controllers, by and large, are White.


Below the TOP floor, on the THIRD FLOOR, we find Independent, Middle-Layer Commercial Farmers, who employ, in total, hundreds and thousands of Farm workers. All these Independent, Middle-Layer Commercial Farmers are also, by and large, White. We may find, here and there, an Indian Farm owner, a Coloured Farm owner, and an African Farm owner.


The SECOND FLOOR is occupied by

 by SMALL COMMERCIAL FARMERS, who live precarious lives as business people. The current Government policy of creating/promoting “Black Farmers” adds individual farmers to this Floor. We cannot emphasize enough the extreme precariousness of the economic existence of these farmers, as business people. They employ tens, perhaps hundreds, in total, some thousands, of Farm workers. The creation/promotion of Women Farmers features here.



The First Floor is occupied by approximately 90 to 95 per cent of people in African Rural Areas and Coloured Rural Areas. These are people engaged in self-subsistence farming activities, people who just scratch the bare soil for their means of existence. These are the most “food insecure” people, who are not guaranteed a meal each and every day of their lives.  This applies to the Eastern Cape.


In the year 2000, the then Deputy-Minister of Trade and Industry, Lindiwe Hendricks made this announcement: “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). If, as we are informed by the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Review and Outlook, (2013), 78 percent of households in Eastern Cape are suffering from food insecurity, it means that conditions of life in `rural SA’ are actually worse than there were as reported by the Deputy-Minister in the year 2000. It means that, in the Eastern Cape, 3 out of 4 people in our times `DO NOT HAVE FOOD TO CONSUME IN A DAY’.


The Human Catastrophe in current South Africa is on the FIRST- FLOOR of rural South Africa! FIRST-FLOOR RURAL SOUTH AFRICA is the source of the statistics about destitution, poverty, misery, dehumanization, diseases and high death-rate. The Provincial Growth and Development Strategy document for KwaZulu/Natal (2011) informs us that “Adult life expectancy in the Province has dropped from 53 years in 1996, to 51.6 in 2000 to 43 in 2009.”


This high death-rate in rural South Africa, which then migrates to urban South Africa, is directly caused by the collapse of the diet system. Correct, nutritious food is the first medicine that the human body gets. When the supply of correct, nutritious food collapses, the health of masses of people collapses; then you get the high death-rate from avoidable diseases.


The economic collapse on the FIRST-FLOOR of Rural South Africa, and the consequent collapse and decay of social-cultural-political life, migrates to urban South Africa, poisoning the physical, social, moral, cultural, and political life of the entire country.


The foundation of the gigantic problem of Eastern Cape today is the continued existence of the FIRST-FLOOR in Rural Eastern Cape.


This gigantic problem of rural Eastern Cape, which becomes the gigantic problem of entire Eastern Cape, becomes the gigantic problem of Cape Town, the gigantic problem of Mthatha, of East London, of Port Elizabeth, of Germiston, Johannesburg, Tembisa, Durban, and of other cities and towns in the entire country.




The Vision is a Rural Eastern Cape without the FIRST FLOOR. The Plan is to put in place a Development Policy which shall eliminate the FIRST FLOOR of Rural Eastern Cape.


THAT IS THE CHALLENGE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE EASTERN CAPE. By eliminating the FIRST FLOOR, the Planning Commission shall have totally transformed the Eastern Cape, and raised the masses of people of the Province to a higher level of well-being. You shall have eliminated the underdevelopment of the Eastern Cape. You shall become a MODEL for all other Provinces, and for all other nations of the African Continent.


This is similar to, this is equal to, a WAR, which requires the mobilization, the reorientation, and re-focusing of the energies, the minds of all the people of the Eastern Cape, the imagination, the emotions and talents of the entire population for the most effective participation in the WAR, with the AIM of eliminating the enemy and winning the WAR.




Is there a country where this approach and model was tried, implemented, and produced the results promised by the argument in this document? YES, there is an example where the approach worked in our living memory. The country is China.


Fifty years ago China was dirt-poor, similar, if not worse than today’s Eastern Cape. The Government of China adopted this strategy, and began its massive transformation of the Chinese economy and society in the countryside.


In an official publication of Chinese scholars, we read: “Reform was first implemented in the rural areas, and then gradually carried out in cities; even when the focus of reform had shifted to cities, it was first tried in the special economic zones, then in coastal areas, and then in the interior” (Gao Shangquan, Liu Guoguang, Ma Junru, The Market Economy and China, p. 5). The important point for us is that this has been a single chain with interconnected links, and that the first link that was grasped with the full strength and determination of the Chinese government was transformation in the countryside. In the early 1990s,  economists calculated that almost half of the acceleration in China’s economic growth rate during the first phase of Reform (1978-1983) came from improved agriculture and rural development (China:The Next Decade, edited by Denis Dwyer, 1994, p. 13). The steps that were first taken in rural China were the first link in the single chain which led to China becoming in our time the second biggest economy in the world.


A crucially significant lesson for us is that Chinese peasants, given assistance, and freed from dictatorship of government and urban activists, not only produced sufficient food for over 1 billion people, but also, on their own initiatives, developed non-agricultural economic activities called Township Enterprises. These small peasant-controlled companies produce light industrial products needed by local people, and have become the roots of the emergence of rural industrialization and small-scale urbanization in the countryside. Even more important for us is that these companies have played the most crucial role in absorbing millions of unemployed in rural China. “The industrial output value of township enterprises accounted for 9.1 percent of the gross national industrial output value in 1978, 16.3 percent in 1984, 23.8 percent in 1989, 30.8 percent in 1991 and 36.8 percent in 1992.” “A total of 10 million surplus rural laborers were absorbed by these enterprises per year, and by 1988 employed 95.45 million people, almost equal to the figure for workers in state-owned enterprises.” (Gao Shangquan, The Reform and Development of China’s Rural Economy, Beijing, pp. 169, 173). It was productive activities of rural Chinese people, using a mixture of traditional Chinese science and technology and modern Western science and technology, which played a very significant role in launching China to being the leading economic power in today’s world.


The recommendation is that the Planning Commission of the Eastern Cape should make the same bold decision, adopt this strategy and transform the Eastern Cape Province root, stock, and branch, as the Chinese Government did 45 years ago.

Our War is to eliminate the FIRST FLOOR of Rural Eastern Cape, as the first step towards lifting the entire Eastern Cape out of poverty. We can transform Eastern Cape into a Switzerland. I say Switzerland because Switzerland was a nation of peasants; these peasants made Switzerland what it is today!




Every TECHNICAL TEAM of the Planning Commission, every WORKING GROUP, must orient its work, must direct its work, first and foremost, to ELIMINATING THE FIRST FLOOR of Rural Eastern Cape.


1.     The Technical Team/Working Group on HEALTH must formulate a Programme-of-Action aimed at eliminating the backlogs and underdevelopment of Health Services and Health Infrastructure on the FIRST FLOOR of Rural Eastern Cape, aimed at eliminating the FIRST FLOOR. The issue of African culture and Health must be accommodated. The issue of HEALTH is intimately related to diet and nutrition. Food is the first medicine, or poison, which the human body gets. There must also be attention given to personality disorders/ psychiatric illnesses/depressions/traumas occasioned by poverty, misery, violence, and inhuman conditions experienced by masses of people in our modern society.

2.     The Technical Team/Working Group on EDUCATION must formulate a Programme-of-Action aimed at eliminating the backlogs and underdevelopment of Educational facilities, educational methods, and educational infrastructure on the FIRST FLOOR of Rural Eastern Cape. They must etail their contribution to the challenge of eliminating the FIRST FLOOR. The issue of African Culture and Education must be attended to and accommodated.

3.     The Technical Team/Working Group on The ECONOMY must formulate a Programme-of-Action on the backlogs and underdevelopment in the Rural African Economy of the Eastern Cape. The issue of African Culture and the Economy must be attended to and accommodated. THE AIM is to increase productivity in the rural African economy, to revive it, and to link it with industry and urban South Africa as a producer of wealth. This shall put the rural African Economy of its feet, abolish the TWO economies, and create ONE integrated South African economy/

4.     The Technical Team/Working Group on RURAL DEVELOPMENT must formulate a Programme-of-Action to eliminate backlogs and underdevelopment of Rural Communities, aimed at eliminating the FIRST FLOOR. A KEY aim and challenge should be to REVIVE and EMPOWER the Rural, VILLAGE Communities, region-by-region. The Community is a most powerful asset and resource in the life of Human Beings. When the Community degenerates and suffers the destruction of its strength, the life of the individual gets terribly impoverished and degenerate. A whole series of activities must be initiated in this regard. The issue of African culture and the Rural Community must be attended to, and accommodated. We are as strong, healthy, and creative, as our communities, and as weak, unhealthy, and degenerate as our communities are.

5.     The Technical Team/Working Group on INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, COMMUNICATIONS, and IT, must formulate a Program-of-Action aimed at eliminating the FIRST FLOOR. They must detail plans to eliminate backlogs and underdevelopment in the Infrastructure, Transport, Means of Communication, and IT in the life of masses of people on the FIRST FLOOR. These issue are directly relevant to schools, education, clinics, hospitals, markets, village-to-village communication, and to intellectual and personality development.

6.     The Technical Team/Working Group on Governance must formulate a Programme-of-Action aimed at identifying and eliminating problems of governance on the FIRST FLOOR. They must identify problems of lack of harmony, dissonance, between Government and people on the FIRST FLOOR, between different departments of government, between Traditional Structures of Governance and Modern structures of Governance. The must bring out, report on, the problems felt by masses of people in their relationship with Government. The Team/Group must concern itself with problems of the lack of capacity on the FIRST FLOOR, the unresponsiveness of Government to the needs of masses of people. The issue of Financial irregularities must be attended to, and the issue identified by Lord Acton: power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

7.     The FIRST FLOOR is the important starting-point of the Development Plan; it is from the FIRST FLOOR that we shall move to urban areas, tracing the interaction between urban and rural. The main thesis here is that the problems of cities and towns in our time are largely a consequence of the collapse of the rural economy and rural communities.

8.     Restoring the HEALTH and DYNAMISM and DEVELOPMENT of Rural Communities of the Eastern Cape shall largely restore the health, dynamism, spiritual soundness and creativeness of the towns and cities of the Eastern Cape.




A number of sources of information shall be utilized:

1.     Existing researched documents, e. g., Stats SA, Results of research done by various government departments/agencies/ NGOs. This is largely desk-top research.

2.     Discussions, Interviews with officials in various municipalities and Government Departments.

3.     Field-work done by Interns in representative areas of the Province, Rural and Urban. Representatives of Political Parties shall also be interviewed. This field-work shall be structured, with well selected and formulated questions, themes, and topics.

4.     Interviews with leaders and representative members/groups of Civil Society, e. g., Women, the Aged, Youth, Men,, Students, Journalists, Teachers, Lecturers, Religious leaders and Groups, Traditional Leaders.


This work should not last more than 3 weeks.


The rest of the time shall be devoted to assessing the information gathered, and Writing of the Document. This should be completed by the 3rd week of May 2014.















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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