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How a land reform agency could break South Africa’s land redistribution deadlock

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Source: Johann Kirsten and Wandile Sihlobo, The Conversation, 3 August 2021, photo credit: Cape Country Roads

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has conceded that the country’s land reform programme is taking too long to address the challenge of land ownership inequality in South Africa. Bureaucratic delays, patronage and political influence, and opportunism among beneficiaries and landowners are among the challenges that have hindered South Africa’s land reform programme progress.

At the same time, the government’s farmer support programmes haven’t been agile and quick enough to provide the necessary support for beneficiaries.

In 1994 when South Africa became a democracy white farmers owned 77.580 million hectares of farmland out of the total surface area of 122 million hectares. The new government set a target of redistributing 30% of the 77 million hectares within the first five years in government. This target has been consistently moved over the years, and now the aim is to reach 30% by 2030, in line with the National Development Plan’s agriculture and land reform objectives.

Our estimates, which include restitution, redistribution, private transactions and state procurement, suggest that 13.2 million hectares (or 17%) have already been transferred from white landowners to the state. An additional 3.08 million hectares have been transferred to black owners and 10.135 million hectares through private and state supported transactions including land restitution.
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