Land reform in South Africa: A status report 2008
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After 14 years of democracy in South Africa, there is agreement across the political and social spectrum that the state’s programme of land reform is in severe difficulties. Almost since its inception, the programme has been criticised for failing to reach its targets or deliver on its multiple objectives of historical redress, redistribution of wealth and opportunities, and economic growth. Particular weaknesses – highlighted by its political supporters and opponents alike – include the slow pace of land redistribution, the failure to impact significantly on the land tenure systems prevailing on commercial farms and in the communal areas, and the widespread perception that what redistribution of land has taken place has not been translated into improvements in agricultural productivity or livelihood benefits for the majority of participants. Nevertheless, despite much political hand-wringing and some changes in direction, the policy fundamentals remain largely unchanged from the formula that was put in place at the time of the transition to democracy. Of particular interest, therefore, is not so much the chronic underperformance of a policy area that many saw as critical to post-apartheid transformation, but the ability of the government to persist for so long with an approach that enjoys so little popular support and is clearly failing to deliver on its ostensible objectives.