23 April 2019

South Africa: Land Policy Must Change South Africa's Agrarian Structure


In debates taking place about the direction of land reform in South Africa today, it is important to remember why we are doing this, and what reform is intended to achieve. One of its key objectives has to be to fundamentally change the agrarian structure inherited from the past. At present, a small minority of mainly white farmers own an overwhelming proportion of rural land, but provide a declining number of decent jobs. These facts are politically unacceptable. If not addressed, they risk delegitimising the post-apartheid political order in its entirety.

Changing the racial distribution of land is symbolically important, but on its own will do little to address wider crises of poverty, inequality and structural unemployment. Land reform has the potential, in my view, to make a significant contribution to reducing these key problems. This means that we must be clear about who will benefit -- a small number of the emerging middle class, or large numbers of poor people.

Pro-poor land redistribution can generate as many as 1.2 million new employment opportunities, in my estimation. To achieve this, the policy must target around 250,000 market-oriented smallholder farmers as the main beneficiaries, and a minimum of 48 million hectares...

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