By Farai Mtero
In spite of progressive constitutional provisions and policy rhetoric in support of pro-poor land reform in South Africa, equitable access to land has remained elusive for the poor majority in both urban and rural areas. In an effort to address this problem, PLAAS launched a project on “Equitable access to land for social justice in South Africa” in 2019 – and has now produced a report on this work. The report combines insights from empirical research, inclusive dialogues and in-depth interviews to analyse the extent to which laws and policies have actually promoted equitable access to land as provided for in the Constitution. In particular, it describes the outcomes of a series of workshops at which different societal groups, including policymakers, land-reform beneficiaries and civil-society activists, articulated diverse and often contested ideas of what constitutes “success” in land reform in South Africa. These meetings facilitated an in-depth interrogation of the at times entrenched assumptions which have shaped the trajectory of land reform, development and, indeed, transformation nationally. In particular, the engaged-research methodology identified the dominance of a “productionist” framing of “viability” as a major impediment to a more democratic vision of land reform. The report argues that equitable land reform should account for the diverse land needs associated with a rapidly changing agrarian landscape and rapid urbanisation, as farming livelihoods decline, unemployment spreads and patterns of rural-urban migration continue to evolve.