Reflections on the South African land reform programme : characteristics, dichotomies and tensions (part 1)

Pienaar, J. M. (2014-01)

CITATION: Pienaar, J. M. 2014. Reflections on the South African land reform programme : characteristics, dichotomies and tensions (part 1). Journal of South African Law / Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg, 2014(3):425-446.

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Although the South African land reform programme shares some similarities with other land reform programmes embarked upon internationally, it is in reality a very unusual programme. The sheer scope of the racially based approach to land reform under the previous political dispensation, the remnants of which are still prevalent today, necessitated an all-encompassing redress programme that encapsulated broadening access to land and redistribution, the upgrading of less secure rights (tenure reform) and restoring that which was taken, or restitution. To this end a particular South African land reform programme, which exhibited specific characteristics, and also impacted on the unlawful occupation of land and eviction, was sculpted. Given that South Africa has been grappling with land reform issues cursorily since 1991 and intensively since 1994, the question may be posed as to whether the land reform programme so developed has indeed achieved the objectives it set out to achieve. In this context some consideration of what "land reform" entails, as well as the (unique) characteristics of the programme conducted here, is also called for. In this light a two-pronged question is posed, namely (a) whether the mechanics of intervention have resulted in a sensible, aligned programme that, overall, achieves the objectives and aims it set out to achieve; and (b) whether a compelling argument can still be made for continuing with land reform - in general, but also with regard to the various sub-programmes. In this process of reflection the inherent dichotomies and resulting disconnects inevitably emerge. Reflecting on the South African land reform programme in order to address the two-pronged question posed above therefore embodies two "internal" processes. The first of these is to give some consideration to what land reform and the business of land reform entail, linked to the unique characteristics of the land reform programme overall, as well as the various sub-programmes. This process is followed by, secondly, an exposition of the emerging dichotomies and disconnects. In light of the disconnects and dichotomies the further two-pronged question is posed whether an aligned programme has indeed taken shape, so that an argument in favour of continued land reform can be advanced. Accordingly, the contribution is divided into two parts: part 1 encapsulates the business of land reform and the unique South African characteristics, while part 2 deals with the resultant dichotomies and disconnects.

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