South Africa's land reform challenges

06 Sep 2013

Land reform in South Africa needs to be addressed, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of food security or by breaking up economically efficient enterprises.

Land reform in South Africa needs to be addressed, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of food security or by breaking up economically efficient enterprises.

So says the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa), whose members comprise 90 percent of the commercial property sector in South Africa.

Neil Gopal Sapoa chief executive officer says South Africa needs a robust and balanced debate around land reform.

The fact that only 13 percent of land in South Africa is owned by black people must be addressed, he points out.

Gopal says only visionary policies and laws will effectively address the societal, economic and political effects of the 1913 Natives Land Act.

But, changing land ownership rights in South Africa also impacts the need to ensure food security.

“South Africa must adopt a process to increase land ownership by the formerly disenfranchised that continues to support food security with effective agricultural structures,” says Gopal.

Sapoa’s stance on the issue would see formalised property rights necessary for economic success in context of increased globalisation.

This would be supported by government-implemented land reform which also trains and guides beneficiaries in social and economic participation during a transition period.

“Fair and transparent validation of historic property rights is fundamental to land reform,” says Gopal.

But, crop-producing land must be treated sensitively. Only 12 percent of South Africa’s surface area can be used for crop production and high-potential arable land comprises a mere 22 percent of this.

So, breaking up commercially efficient enterprises for land reform poses a danger to food security.

“It isn’t enough to simply maintain social and political stability, we rather need to create substantive economic change.”

Equally important to formalising land ownership is progressively and positively changing the wealth and income distribution of the South African populace, notes Gopal.

Sapoa puts forward that different laws and policies could act as a cohesive, effective foundation to ensure a sustainable land reform process.

These include the Expropriation of Property, Restitution of Land Rights Amendment, Property Valuations Bills and Preservation and Preservation of Agricultural Land Policy, among others.

However, he says as bills that will define the social, economic and political stability, or instability, of South Africa, these land reform bills shouldn’t be ‘rushed through’ and must be thoroughly debated first, to ensure legal, social, economic and political validity.

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