S.Africa’s land reform: A misleading issue - CNBC Africa

S.Africa’s land reform: A misleading issue

Southern Africa

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Land reform and distribution has long been an emotive issue in South Africa. PHOTO: Getty Images

“What the government does is it buys land from white farmers, this is then called ‘redistributed’, and then black people become tenants there. That in itself is actually misleading,” Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw told CNBC Africa.

“There’s something like 40,000 white farmers – if you redistribute 30 per cent of those, and nobody knows whether 30 per cent means by number, area or value – it’s just a number that floats around in the air, how many blacks are possibly ever going to be beneficiaries not as owners but as tenants. This is completely deceptive to 40 million black South Africans who will end up with no land at all.”

The issue of land reform was initiated by the African National Congress in South Africa in 1994. However, after nearly two decades, the land reform process is still experiencing major problems.


“Real land reform is land where people in fact live, which is in urban areas, towns, cities and villages. This is still held by black South Africans, occupied by black South Africans, largely under Verwoed’s fantasy of blacks living as tenants on government land. Real land reform is that all black-occupied land be converted to full, free-hold title,” said Louw.

“What is being called land reform is actually defrauding black South Africans of what they really deserve and need, which is to get rid of the whole idea of the 1913 Land Act, according to which black South Africans didn’t own land – it’s time we changed that mindset.”

Annelize Crosby, parliamentary representative and advisor of legal and land affairs for Agri South Africa, believes that looking at distributing land the government already has a possible solution, but it comes with its own problems. 

“There’s a lot to be criticised about the way land reform has been executed in this country up to date. I think the situation is a little bit more complex in that a lot of the government land is seemingly already occupied. Ideally, what you would like to see at the end of the day is as many people as possible owning their own homes and getting titles to land,” she said.

“Where the solution is implementable, in practice, is going to be done so that would be a big part of the solution, but land reform does remain a very complex and emotive issue. The political will is there and the budgets are forthcoming. Implementation – that is where we’ve been failing. If we can get that right, we will solve land reform in this country.”