Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
CHANGUION, Louis. The South African Land Issue - is there a solution?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2012, vol.52, n.4, pp.552-565. ISSN 2224-7912.
The current debate on land reform cannot take place meaningfully without taking into account the historical course of land distribution in South Africa. After having studied the history of land tenure in South Africa, one arrives at the conclusion that land tenure and the segregation of the two main population groups were to a large extent unavoidable. The unequal distribution of land between black and white can be traced back to the earliest years of contact and the different, irreconcilable views of land tenure of that time. Judgement of the events of a hundred years or more ago cannot take place from a modern point of view. Yet, over the years, the authorities made mistakes in the application of the policy of segregation which resulted in friction and conflicts and action by the authorities which the black nations perceived as humiliating. The authorities failed in their efforts to effect peaceful segregation. We need to find a solution to this problem. There are lessons to be learned from what happened in the past and there are lessons to be learned from what happened in other countries where land reform policies were applied. Ever since the current government came into power various suggestions have been made to try to solve the land issue. From the inception of the land reform process, there were those who called for the government first to transfer to prospective black farmers the land already available before taking away land from successful white farmers. In 2008 the cabinet in principle passed a draft bill to enable land expropriation. Consequently, the opposition parties in parliament reacted strongly when the legislation was tabled. By the end of August, it became known that the government had decided to withdraw the bill for the time being. However, everybody realised that this only meant that the bill would not be tabled in the current session of parliament and would possibly be raised again after the next election. After the threat of the proposed expropriation law, the next shock was the announcement that the government was considering to declare all productive agricultural land a national asset. The possibility of 40% sharecropping was also raised. In July 2011 the long-awaited green paper on land reform was made public. In studying this document, one realises that, inter alia, it implies that the state will retain ownership of land transferred to black farmers. These farmers will then hire the land from the state on a land-lease basis. Further, a limit will be imposed on the amount of land a white commercial farmer or company may own. These farmers will, however, keep their ownership and strict limitations will be applied on foreigners' tenure of agricultural land. Apart from negative reaction to this document, there are also those who believe that with certain adjustments this proposal should be seriously considered as a possible solution to the land issue. The problem of fair land distribution has actually become more complex than what it ever was because the population has increased drastically and the land has not. Just as the land policy of the successive white governments was a race driven policy, so is the current policy on land reform. The principal motive in the policies of the white governments of the past was to secure the white man's position. The principal objective of the current government is to benefit black people. Land reform in South Africa can only succeed if it is implemented objectively, fairly and honestly, if the provisions of the constitution are complied with, and if there is no deviation from the regulations for the enforcement of the law. Everybody should realise that land reform has to take place, but also that all the citizens of the country, irrespective of race, are entitled to own land.
Keywords : Land tenure; land issue; land reform; land distribution; land expropriation; restitution; segregation; sharecropping; green paper; land-lease; commercial farmer; constitution.