The disjunctures of land and agricultural reform in South Africa: Implications for the agri-food system
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Land reform was introduced in South Africa in the 1990s to redress the injustices of colonialism and apartheid. But compromises in the transition to democracy saw a trade-off between political participation on one side and continuity in economic structure and ownership on the other. Conflicting policy imperatives led to the subordination of land reform to agricultural restructuring, which was already producing the consolidation of corporate power at the centre of the agri-food system. Key processes included the privatisation of the co-operative infrastructural backbone to produce concentrated agribusinesses throughout the food system, trade liberalisation that benefited some agri-food sectors and saw the decline of others, and foreign investments and acquisitions across the agri-food system – most recently in the Pioneer-Pannar and Walmart- Massmart acquisitions. Despite rhetoric in favour of building small-scale agriculture, neither the land reform programme nor agricultural restructuring processes facilitated the realisation of this objective. Government tailed agribusiness in opting for a contract farming model to integrate selected small-scale black farmers into corporate value chains, which left the fundamental agrarian and agri-food structure intact. Government’s role in providing black farmers with finance, research and development support and extension services remain weak and enhance private control over the overall agri-food system.