State, Market or the Worst of both? Experimenting with Market-based Land Reform in South Africa

January 2007
Edward Lahiff (PLAAS LRAC 30)

Paper reviews the South African experience with land reform, and land redistribution in particular, up to the end of 2005. Looks at various aspects of market-based land reform – landowner veto on participation in land reform; payment of ‘market prices’ for land; self-selection of beneficiaries; focus on ‘commercial’ forms of production; prominent role for the private sector in provision of credit, extension, and other services. The experience suggests that market-based approaches are incapable of effecting a large-scale redistribution of land or restructuring of the agrarian economy, and are likely to be met with growing popular opposition as the crisis of rural livelihoods grows and the limitations of ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ become apparent.