South Africa: The Land Question Is Also About Political Belonging

A farmhouse in Free State, South Africa (file photo).

One of the most interesting questions about the "land debate", as it is commonly referred to in the South African media - the debate about the merits of amending the Constitution in order to provide for expropriation of agricultural land without compensation (EWC) - is why we are having it in the first place, why it is coming up now, and why it has moved so swiftly to the centre of political debate.

Two-thirds of South Africa's population are now living in towns and cities, and are not dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. We are largely an urbanised, modern society, and most of us - including the majority of poor people - rely for survival, not on wresting crops from the land, but on food bought in stores.

So why is land reform, an issue that for 20 years was pretty much relegated the margins of South Africa's political life, suddenly of such consuming political interest? Why, for example, would university students such...

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