Questions about South African land distribution

Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development minister Thoko Didiza’s has announced that 700,000 ha of agricultural land will be released for distribution. This is seen by many as a positive step for agricultural expansion and inclusive growth.

Still, critics point to the fact that much of this land is owned by the state, mainly due to the government’s Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy, confirming the global experience that governments tend to be good at acquiring land for the purpose of redistributive land reform, but lack efficiency and effectiveness in redistributing it to beneficiaries.

It is for this reason that many experts (including those at have argued for a decentralised approach to redistributive land reform. In an ideal situation, the idea would be to keep bureaucrats and politicians out of the land redistribution process so that individuals can negotiate the terms of transactions themselves.

However, in SA efforts to deal with redistributive justice and the reduction of racial inequality in land ownership requires government intervention. This could include land acquisition grants, subsidised finance, an effective farm support system and a number of other requirements for efficiently operating a farm.

It is unfortunately also true that access to these grants and support mechanisms provided by the state requires beneficiary selection, application processes and red tape, which are open to abuse and long delays. Again, for a rapid land reform process, these approval processes need to be quick, effective and based on merit.

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