Opinion: Assessing South Africa’s New Land Redistribution Policies
Author: Ben Cousins
Land reform in post-apartheid South Africa is in trouble. Research reveals that at least half of all projects have seen little or no improvement in the lives of their beneficiaries, mostly because of poor planning and lack of effective support . The pace of land transfer from white to black South Africans is slow, and political pressure is building to address the legacies of the large-scale land dispossession that took place under colonial and apartheid rule.
Policy-making on land has become a somewhat ad hoc process in recent years. In 1997 a comprehensive and ambitious White Paper was published and charted a reasonably clear way forward. Since then policies have changed tack several times, often failing to take into account the lessons from implementation of previous policies. In 2009 the newly-elected Jacob Zuma administration announced that rural development and land reform were national priorities, and in 2011 a short, 11-page Green Paper outlined some new policy thrusts, but with scant justification or discussion of past experience.
Two years later, and with a national election around the corner, a series of short policy documents were released in 2013.
Many of these new policy shifts are highly problematic, and, populist rhetoric to the contrary, are likely to result in elite capture of land reform as well as continued insecurity of tenure for the majority of rural people in communal areas, on privately owned and restored or redistributed land.
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