News and Information

SA proposes quicker land reform
July 27, 2005

Landless people's march
Landless people staged a protest march to the summit
South Africa needs to revise its approach to land reform to end racial inequalities, government officials say.

At a national land summit in Johannesburg, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said the current market-based approach was not working.

Landless people's activists remained sceptical about the announcement.

Eighty per cent of agricultural land is owned by white South Africans, who make up only 10% of the population - the legacy of apartheid laws.

Markets don't have mechanisms to redistribute land for the poor
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Long wait for land

Since coming to power in 1994, the current government has adopted a "willing buyer, willing seller" approach to land redistribution, paying market prices for land that white owners are prepared to sell, and then distributing it to landless blacks.

"The pace of reform has been negatively influenced by the willing buyer, willing seller approach," Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka told the meeting.

"Markets don't have mechanisms to redistribute land for the poor."

Asked whether this would require new legislation, Land and Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza told the BBC: "This will be decided by the outcome of the summit."


The Landless People's Movement (LPM), which has been campaigning for government to speed up land reform, seemed sceptical about the government's proposals.

"It is one thing to say it, and another to implement it," said Randall Rossouw, an activist from Western Cape province.

The LPM staged a protest march to the conference venue, calling for an end to the willing buyer willing seller approach.

Agri SA, an organisation representing commercial farming interests said South Africa could not afford to send "mixed messages" about property rights to potential foreign investors.

"The rule of law and adherence to a market assisted approach is of paramount importance," Agri SA chief executive Hans van der Merwe told the summit.

Minister Didiza said that by 2014, the government will have been able to deliver 30% of agricultural land to the black majority.

So far, only 4% of land has been acquired by the government from private owners for redistribution purposes, and unused state land has also been redistributed.

The land summit - which brings together politicians, landowners and organisations representing people who hope to benefit from land reform - will discuss ways of speeding up the redistribution process.

White farmers are concerned that changes could create an atmosphere conducive for land grabs, similar to the land invasions seen on white-owned farms in Zimbabwe.


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