The forces of production in rural South Africa and the performance of the agricultural sector form the central theme of this paper. It shows that the long-term lack of dynamism of capitalist development in South Africa as a whole is reflected in and is responsible for failures of rural development. These failures have resulted in acute suffering, not least in Eastern Cape province, where barriers to dynamic capitalist growth remain very high. The paper concludes with proposals for promoting more rapid wage employment growth and capitalist development and for protecting vulnerable rural residents from the worst consequences of such development. The proposals are contrasted with the conventional wisdom in South Africa, especially the rural development strategies proposed by the current government.