SA political parties ignore rural communities’ needs

Rural communities in South Africa are still in need of proper water infrastructure.

South Africa’s rural communities recently asked all of the country’s political parties to support them in their desire to benefit from the wild animals and plants in the national parks and game reserves they live next to.

Shockingly, only one South African political party has thus far responded to the need.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM), led by long-time anti-corruption Member of Parliament and former Deputy Minister of the Environment General Bantu Holomisa, has emerged as the only political party standing behind these communities ahead of the 2024 elections.

The Community Association for South Africans in Natural Resources (CASA-Nature), an organisation representing all the South African communities living next to national parks and game reserves, called upon all political parties in October 2023 to support its call to benefit from sustainable trade in wild animals and their products.

Specifically, they sought benefits from international hunting, ivory and rhino horn trade as well as from wild plants for medicinal purposes.

National parks and game reserves also yield important carbon credits for trading, and subterranean resources such as gold, coal, and other minerals.

The communities’ demands for benefits from natural resources are supported by South Africa’s constitution.

Section 24B of South Africa’s constitution grants rights to the country’s citizens to benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources.

In a recent press release, CASA-Nature said that it encouraged votes for political parties that advocate for “sustainable use of our natural resources for the benefit of our communities.”

Among the 2024 Manifestos available for review, the UDM stands alone in stating it favours doing just what CASA-Nature advocates.

The South African communities living next to national parks and game reserves were all promised benefits beyond the boundaries of these facilities at the South Africa-hosted World Parks Congress in Durban in 2004.

Sadly, the CASA-Nature communities say that every South African government for the last 20 years has failed to produce these long-promised benefits.

“The UDM’s recognition of the obligation to the CASA-Nature communities shows that it understands the significant national benefits that can flow from sustainable use of natural resources,” said American political consultant and former advisor to President Lyndon, Johnson, Godfrey Harris.

“The other major political parties that have launched their 2024 manifestos — the ANC, DA and EFF — continue to ignore the importance of the specific needs of South Africa’s rural communities.”

There was zero mention of these specific needs in the 2019 election manifestos of South Africa’s political parties.  But things have changed in 2024.

In its election manifesto launched this month, the UDM has promised to address the need for communities to start benefiting significantly from natural resources.

To effectively address the wildlife and habitat needs of South Africa’s rural communities, as well as their management challenges, the UDM 2024 Election Manifesto states: There is a growing argument that conservation of wildlife, maintained in healthy and diverse populations of plants and animals in realms [environments] safely separated from human habitats, requires regular harvesting, marketing, and trading to be sustainable in an economically profitable way.

A UDM government will gather all stakeholders and advocacy groups under one roof to debate the matter of sustainable harvesting and trading of [wildlife] items.

Its 2024 political manifesto also makes this telling point: “The UDM believes that the protection and conservation of wild plants and animals is one of the highest duties of government.”

The manifesto goes on to point out: “Wildlife inspires wonder, attracts the interest of international visitors, and provides livelihoods to our people. Wildlife also creates valuable

products for artistic, industrial and therapeutic purposes around the world.”

Meanwhile, Harris said that he doubts the UDM can “win” the 2024 election as the ANC has

won past elections with well over half of the electorate’s support. But he thinks “it can do well enough in 2024 to become an effective and game-changing partner of other political parties in a coalition government.”

Harris said he thought that the UDM ought to use the phrase “GIVE ‘EM CLOUT” on the party’s new political posters.

“Good partnerships lead to better governments,” said Harris.

“Think of what can happen when the wisdom the UDM offers is ‘married’ to the passion for change that is growing in South Africa.”

“That combination is enough to steer the ‘ship’ of state in a better direction than the ANC has been guiding it of late, on its own.

“If wisdom were actually to join with the passion for change, South Africa could successfully shift its resources to solving some of the problems that has plagued it—lack of consistent electricity supply, rampant crime, high unemployment, and most of all, unrelenting corruption, “ said Harris.

Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes on environment and development issues in Africa.


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