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Property Rights: The Key To South Africa’s Land Reforms

Author: Anna B. Wroblewska

South Africa recently reopened land reform claims, and new proposals for broader change are in the news. Land reform has been a mixed bag thus far, and the key issue is a lack of firm property rights.  

According to Aninka Claassens, senior researcher and the director of the Rural Women’s Action Research Project at the University of Cape Town, the early beneficiaries of land reform struggled to turn their properties into productive farms, and the South African government has responded by shifting its focus to productivity and commercial ventures rather than supporting the development of those smallholder farmers.  

“One of the things that government is shocked by is how the early transfers to groups of poor people didn’t really succeed, and in many instances people didn’t use the land productively. So they’ve created all these policies tied to productivity and how the land is used. They didn’t look at why land reform didn’t succeed, and that it was primarily due to the lack of support.”  

In other words, the training and skills development that can help subsistence farmers to become commercial farmers. 

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