A Political Economy of Land Reform in South Africa

June 2004
Ruth Hall, Review of African Political Economy, Vol.31, No.100, June 2004, pp.213-27

Land reform is one way in which the ‘new’ South Africa set out to redress the injustices of apartheid and, by redistributing land to black South Africans, to transform the structural basis of racial inequality. During the first decade of democracy, land reform has fallen far short of both public expectations and official targets. This article describes the progress of the programme and its changing nature. It is argued that a recent shift in land policy, from a focus on the rural poor to ‘emerging’ black commercial farmers, is consistent with changes in macro-economic policy and reflects shifting class alliances. The programme now appears to pursue a limited deracialisation of the commercial farming areas rather than a process of agrarian restructuring. Most fundamentally, land reform has not yet provided a strategy to overcome agrarian dualism.