Land Reform
Land Reform

Zimbabwe is definitely not an example of where everything is going perfectly well, but they are getting very good mileage out of their national consensus on land reform and rural development. As things stands, there is a collective wisdom that land reform is a must and should be addressed with speed to avoid further chaos and mayhem that has beset the once beautiful country.

While Zimbabwe is in unison about the change that is expected, South Africa seems to be way in the political doldrums not knowing what is going to work or what alternatives are there for a successful land reform. It is a fact that at the practical level about 5% of white owned land has been transferred since the first democratic elections of 1994, which means that about 80% of land is still owned by whites. At this rate the already modest redistribution target of 30% has absolutely zero chance of being achieved by the target date of 2014.

Calls for the state driven land reform are a mere function of failed ideas and lacks critical elements of engagement. Zimbabwe and Kenya stood prominently as historical examples of failed state intervention while South Africa continues to prophesize them. State driven land reform can only be possible in a true developmental state.  So far South Africa does not have an iota of the characteristics of a developmental state as stated by the Chalmers who came with the concept and of its contemporary exponent Adrian Leftwich. A developmental state based on the developmental objective by all political players and civil society, a macro economic agenda that defines priorities and trade offs within the constraints imposed by the local and global realities. In addition to these, it requires an active civil society that is competent and capable in delivering on the mandate coupled with an institutional framework that is delinked from the party political agendas.

At this point, there is no indication or any body language that suggests there is a state capacity and leadership to deliver sustainable land reform even at the current pitiful levels of achievement, let alone at levels needed. Popular based rural revolution is the most desirable programme to deliver our people from the pangs of poverty and human degradation and social injustices. Indeed, the collusion between government and mining capital alone guarantees pro elites as opposed to pro poor land programme.

The land question cannot be resolved through the barrel of the market. The step to sustained development of our country is through a successful subsistence agriculture coupled with rural education and rural infrastructure.  Our current neo-colonial land regime cannot be reformed. It must be completely replaced with a modern popular driven land justice rural revolution. Our collective efforts have achieved at most cosmetic change that in reality entrenches and extends the colonial order rather than transform it. It has become an enduring and terrible tragedy for those living in the outskirts of the cities and in the rural areas and it continues to unfold through every nook and cranny of our countryside.  Indeed, successful land reform comes at a heavy price.

The rural revolution is about the people calling government, captains of the industry, landowners and organs of civil society to negotiate and dialogue a People’s Contract for the Land. We do not need government to lead, but to respond. The people must lead. Without stabilizing rural society through rural revolution, you can expect an even greater mass migration of developing farmers to the cities. You could say it is a disaster waiting to happen.

By Congress Mahlangu



  1. the issues raise in the comment/editorial on land reform are nagging issues. let’s face it, the 1957 ANC was not formed to address the landlessness of the african people like the ANC of 1912 intended to do, it was formed to end apartheid and we have always asked them what would they do after apartheid was abolished. in their typical arrogant style they dismissed us. they thought that everything would fall in place once apartheid was abolished. the reason the property clause is in the constitution is that there were secret negotiations between the white ruling class and the ANC while excluding the PAC. these secret talks were a fait accompli. the CODESA talks were a facade and a charade. the PAC maintained all along that the willing-buyer-willing-seller policy of the ANC and the white ruling family won’t work but the PAC advice was not heeded. at the 1998 conference in soshanguve, former PAC president Dr Stanley Mogoba called for a land summit. the ANC played dead and about 6 or so years later the ANC jumped up from their feigned death and called for a land summit but didn’t invite the PAC. not surprisingly the willing-seller-willing-buyer policy wasn’t resolved because that anc “land summit” was a pretentious and futile exercise at which tax payers’ money was squandered. i agree that the ANC’s declarations are just sound and fury signifying nothing.

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