A Comparative Assessment of the Land Reform Programme in South Africa and Namibia
Vermeulen, Sanet Elenor
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This study first discusses, and ultimately compares, the land reform policies of both South Africa and Namibia, with special reference to the respective histories of land ownership. An overview of the two countries’ histories of colonial and segregationist policies are presented to provide the reader with insight into the racially unequal social, economic and political relations within the case studies concerned. The particular focus of this study falls on the legal frameworks and the policy developments of land restitution and the land redistribution policy programmes from the time of the transition to democracy. South Africa’s and Namibia’s policies are compared, highlighting the similarities and differences between the two. South Africa developed a wider land reform policy, which stands on three legs: land restitution, land redistribution and land tenure reform. The first, land restitution, has been prioritised by government and has thus far contributed the most to the progress of land reform. It may also be seen as the beginning of redistribution. Land tenure does not receive much attention in this study, but the land redistribution programme does. Progress to date has overall been slower than expected and other stumbling blocks such as ineffective extension services, bureaucratic ineptitude and ensuring the productive use of land are not focused on. Government recently indicated that it intends, and has also taken some steps, to speed up the lagging process of land reform through an increased use of expropriation. Great criticism against this was voiced by the commercial sector. South Africa is a constitutional democracy and attempts to redress the injustices of the past within a legal framework. Namibia seems to be progressing faster than South Africa in terms of its redistribution policy. One reason for this could be that the targets are more realistically set. It was decided that the restitution of ancestral land will not be followed (therefore, redistribution was not claims-based), but that all previously disadvantaged people will benefit from land redistribution. A land conference was held immediately after independence in 1991. Lately, however, momentum on the pursuit of its land reform policy seems to have subsided. The conclusion of this study indicates that although there are differences in the respective countries’ land reform policies, there are significant similarities. The debate between ‘equity’ and ‘production’ becomes even more important in the midst of world food price increases, a global financial crisis and the ever growing gap between the poor and the rich. More than a decade after the transition to democracy (amidst the chaotic land reform process in Zimbabwe), land and ownership remain a contentious issue in both countries.