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Rushing land reform only slows it down

Author: Nhlanhla Mbatha

Poor performances in the land reform process in South Africa are caused primarily by the fluctuating and sometimes conflicting policy messages from government since 1994. The oscillation of policy language over the past 21 years, we argue, has led to key challenges in the process, ultimately stemming from the reluctance of policymakers to embrace exclusive property rights and free markets. 

At a theoretical level, the reluctance is justifiable given the redistributional imperatives of the land reform process. 

On the surface, the nature of the newly proposed policies for implementation are still not likely to fast-track the process of land reform partly because the sizes of farms targeted for settling about 10 000 dwellers on five million hectares in the Land and Agrarian Reform Project (Larp) would still be too large to facilitate markets for small farmers. In addition the proposed valuation process, which is a lot more sensitive to political and historical considerations, will now be centralised in an office that may not have the urgently required human resources.

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