Agricultural land ownership, tenure and access in South Africa are historically determined along racial lines. Reactions to this untenable problem are becoming increasingly volatile. More than two decades into South Africa’s constitutional democracy, little has changed to empower the previously disadvantaged majority of South Africans in this regard. The resentment about this institutionalised discrimination and poverty is growing in the wake of government’s failures to meaningfully address the situation. For many Black South Africans, this remains a symbol of their dehumanisation by the previous racist government and its supporting voters.
I am a sixth generation land owner of a small-scale farming operation in the arid North West Province of South Africa. This research represents my efforts in searching for ways of creating a more equal and just relationship with my Tswana co-worker in terms of his access and tenure of land. In the final instance, this work would hopefully be of value to farmers and their labourers in similar contexts.
I engaged a narrative enquiry based on social constructionism, employing postfoundational practical theology as interpreted and developed by Műller in his 7-steps to participate in this action research.
Auto-ethnography and fictional research writing enabled me to problematise a dominant narrative that has become increasingly one-dimensional. According to this narrative, Whites stole the land at gunpoint or through trickery. Political leaders with varying agendas are prone to abusing this version of our past to the advancement of their self-enrichment and patronage networks. My methodology of choice offered the opportunity to establish a non-dominant narrative, using the particulars of this context to create a preferred outcome.
I created a revisionist understanding of ubuntu as ‘right action’, which is helpful in securing Joba’s access and tenure to the land. Current affairs in terms of State Capture and other narratives that are dynamically related to this course of events, thicken the plot to such an extent that it causes strain between ubuntu and land
reform. I engaged mindfulness as my chosen spirituality to create harmony rather than competition between land and ubuntu.
Subsequently, it seems that Joba and my working partnership can be beneficial for both of us and also for other land owners and their co-labourers, particularly, when operated as a share scheme.