Speech by Dave Steward to the National Government Indaba on Rural Land Management, Land Tenure Reforms, Agricultural Transformation and Rural Development Strategies 2012
Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation
The National Government Indaba on Rural Land Management, Land Tenure Reforms, Agricultural Transformation and Rural Development Strategies 2012
23 November 2012
EVALUATING THE SUCCESSES AND FAILURES OF LAND AND AGRARIAN REFORM
There are three things on which all reasonable participants in the debate on land reform agree:
• the first is the need for a fair and workable process of land reform;
• the second is the fact that this is a highly important and emotional issue for all stakeholders; and
• the third is that the land reform process has failed to meet expectations - and, in particular, there is no possibility of achieving the original goal of redistributing 30% of agriculatural land by 2014.
The need for land reform in South Africa has its origin in the historic undermining of black land ownership through colonial dispossession and discriminatory legislation that had been implemented since the beginning of the 20th century. The division of land between white and black South Africans was distorted by the policy of separate development, which limited black ownership of land to the over-populated homelands. The unfair division of land rested on the legislative infrastructure of the Native Land Act of 1913, the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936 and the Group Areas Act of 1950.
At the inception of South Africa’s democratic transition in 1994 the impact of these informal and institutional restrictions on black land ownership was very clear from the division of land between the various race groups. At that time, about 80% of agricultural land was in the hands of white South Africans.
The urgency of the need for a successful land reform programme arose from both the moral obligation of a democratically elected government to rectify the injustices of the past, and the reality that in the long run the highly unequal division of land was untenable.
The questions of property rights and land reform were accordingly central issues during the constitutional negotiations between 1991 and 1996. The result was the carefully balanced compromise in section 25 of the Constitution.
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Published in: FW de Klerk Foundation