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Policy Brief 52: Rural Land Redistribution in South Africa: Contrasting Visions and Models

by Rick de Satgé, Ben Cousins in 2019
There is widespread agreement that land reform in South Africa is in deep trouble. However, there are very different perspectives on what should be done to address the failure to meaningfully redistribute land and resolve the land question.  
Section 25 of the Constitution requires land redistribution to promote equitable access to land, but progress has been slow and the programme largely ineffective. Budget allocations have been derisory, with only around 0,4% of the annual national budget allocated for land reform as a whole, and around 0.1% for land redistribution (HLP, 2017:50).   
Over time, land redistribution had steadily drifted away from its original pro-poor focus. Concerns about the high levels of project failure and the inability of the state to ensure support for those acquiring land are recurrent themes. Mounting frustrations over unmet demands for secure access to land in rural and urban areas featured prominently in public hearings on a possible amendment to the constitution, called by parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee in 2018. 
How to resolve the land question? What should be done? An ambitious conference held in February 2019 took a close look at how the redistribution of land in rural areas could be re-imagined. It did not aim to reach consensus, and the vigorous debate and contestation that took place helped to clarify the key issues and challenges that policy must grapple with.