Annual report 2004
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The wider context of our research and training, and the ultimate rationale for establishing and maintaining a centre such as PLAAS, is the key challenge of deeply entrenched poverty, as well as the inequality to which it is inextricably linked. A majority of citizens in South Africa, as in the wider southern African region, are subject to an on-going crisis of livelihood vulnerability, exacerbated by a raging HIV/Aids pandemic. These realities tend to empty formal democracy of substantive content. Poverty and vulnerability are deepest in rural areas where the majority of the region’s population still lives. The greatest concentrations of such poverty are in those areas previously designated exclusively for African settlement, the former ‘native reserves’, but poverty is also widespread in the commercial farming sector. This sector has always paid extremely low wages, but has been shedding jobs steadily for the past decade, and what jobs survive are largely casual or seasonal in character. Poverty in both contexts has its origins in colonial policies of land acquisition, settlement and economic development that dispossessed the indigenous majority of their land and created dual and highly unequal political, social, legal and economic regimes. A similar legacy is found in coastal communities in relation to unequal access to marine and coastal resources.