The policing vs the nanny approach: which is more sustainable?

By Nobathembu Kobokana & Nosipho Damasane

Travelling through the rural Eastern Cape one is amazed by the huge amounts of arable land that lies unused instead of being cultivated and productive.

The social grant system introduced by the government has an unintended consequence of promoting dependence to the system thereby leading to a situation of the government playing a baby-sitting role to able-bodied young people that could instead be contributing to the Eastern Cape’s economy through commercial agriculture.

This has created a pure lack of drive amongst young men and women. As the parents of the children who get child grants, they do not see a need to work.  Instead they have more kids in a quest to increase the number of child grants in the homestead.

Political will, vision and leadership for sustainability are the key drivers for a vibrant rural development strategy that will take South Africans out of dependency, poverty and unemployment.

The majority of South African citizens are poor and live below the poverty line especially in rural areas. The South African Government uses 2 dollars per day per person as a rough guide for the poverty line threshold.  Using this indicator, the proportion of people living below poverty line was about 53% in 1995; 58% in 2001 and 48% in 2008.

Rural development became one of the key government priority programs from 2009 to 2014, because the leadership realized the lack of sustainable economic development in rural communities.

The land restitution efforts, by the government have not yet yielded positive results; which leads one to the important question of why is the leadership failing to maintain sustainability in rural areas whilst the government has embarked on several efforts in assisting the rural communities, such as:

  • agricultural grants
  • specialized agricultural services
  • implements, seeds and dipping medication for livestock
  • irrigation systems (although those that have been built, are certainly an exception. Most of those that exist were built by Bantustan governments and in a state of disrepair).
  • assistance in co-operative registrations and other services
  • training being afforded to unemployed youth

The missing link is the policing role that the government is failing to play. The proof is:

  • The widespread fraudulent child grant at the forefront, followed by pension grant pay outs, committed throughout the Eastern Cape. In some cases the culprits are government employees who take bribes to allow the un-qualifying people to get these social grants. The chief executive of SASSA listed the Eastern Cape as one of the areas of high concern in fraudulent social grant payouts.
  • The cooperative members use the profits made to make themselves rich as opposed to sustaining the business, thereby leading to huge failures.
  • The implements, seeds and dipping medication given to communities are sold for cash without any consequences to the sellers, resulting in reduced land productivity brought about by lack implements and seeds.
  • No proper care and maintenance is afforded to the irrigation systems causing endless failures.
  • The trained incumbents move to urban areas with the hope of getting employment and hence enabling them to put food on the table back home, leaving the elderly and small children sometimes under sad circumstances.


For the leadership to ensure sustainability they have to make sure that the current government resources are well sustained for use by current and future generations. No mercy should be shown to fraudsters. Justice must be allowed to take its course without exception in bringing the culprits to book.

The state should only assist the homesteads that are really in need, with no income at all and limit the number of grants so that parents can plan their families responsibly.

This article was jointly written by two MBA students in the 2014 cohort. The views expressed are their own. Nobathembu Kobokana is an Executive Secretary at the Great Kei Municipality & Nosipho Damasane is the CEO of Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

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