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Institutional arrangements in natural resource management: investigating the sale and leaseback model in the midlands, Kwazulu Natal.

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Land reform has been an issue of contention in South Africa. Institutions and organisations have devised a variety of land claim settlement models that provide mutual benefits for claimant communities as well as private owners. With the increasing number of land claims in the commercial forestry and agriculture industries after the implementation of the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994, the forestry sector developed a land claim settlement model called the sale and leaseback. The sale and leaseback model (SALB) is an institutional arrangement that creates partnerships between land claimant communities and Mondi. the model provides benefits the following benefits to claimant communities, (a) rent and stumpage, (b) capacity building, (c) bursary scheme, (d) employment opportunities, (e) corporate social investment (CSI), and (f) enterprise development. Studies have shown that while partnerships were hoped to be a bridge between claimant communities and private forestry companies, it has not been the case. The study is important because, although there is a plethora of literature on institutional arrangements between government and communities as well as between private companies and communities, there are few case studies presented about the complexities of the relationships that exist between the actors. Studies specific to comanagement arrangements in the forestry industry lacks practical case studies, and the research that exists does not examine the experiences of private forestry companies working with communities (claimant and non-claimant) and this study aims to fill the gap in this field. The study uses qualitative data collection techniques such as open-ended questionnaires and observations to ascertain the experiences of Trusts, board members of community-owned contracting and Mondi with the sale and leaseback model. The study evaluates the SALB and its impact on claimants and Mondi from a political ecology perspective as well as a co-management analysis framework. Central themes analysed in co-management are (1) representation which examines the scope of actors involved in co-management, (2) power sharing which analyses the extent of power sharing in a co-management arrangement, and (3) empowerment which examines the extent to which communities are dependent on the company they work with, and the extent to which their livelihoods are exposed to unnecessary risk. The study shows that while claimant communities receive benefits outlined in the lease agreements, they are not completely satisfied with them. Trustees and board members feel stagnant as they have not advanced to the next stages in their contracting companies because of the ambiguity and lack of assessment tool of the business development aspect of the lease agreements. Mondi has experienced challenges in the partnerships stemming from the claimants’ lack of business acumen, financial resources and because claimant communities have become highly dependent on the company for empowerment and development. These factors contribute to the unequal power dynamics between Mondi and claimant communities. Power is not static, it shifts from actor to actor depending on the situation; although partnership arrangements account for potential power struggles, there is a lack of a mechanism to address them. Since Mondi acts as a mentor to claimants, it automatically makes it the stronger actor in the partnership. Power is generally shared equally between members in community entities. There is also an underlying invisible power prevalent in the interactions between Mondi and Trusts, which is a result of previous injustices. The abovementioned factors therefore highlight the importance of the claimants’ understanding of the partnership agreements, expectations, roles, and deliverables of each party. My argument nuances this literature to show that company-community partnerships are not true partnerships because, (a) claimant communities are disempowered, (b) lack financial resources, business acumen, and negotiating power, and (c) unequal power relations where collaborations are characterised by dependency.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.