Land reform failure is the government’s failure

2010-03-05 00:00

THE new minister of the new Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, has rightly pointed out the failure of land reform in South Africa to meet its targets.

The Land Restitution Programme, which was due to be completed in 2008, still has land claims to settle in excess of R3 billion. Land redistribution of 30% of agricultural land to previously disadvantaged people by 2014 will also not be achieved. Further, the minister says that nine out of 10 projects have failed through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Programme.

Firstly, targets set for land reform were determined by the government, not the public. They were ambitious, especially considering the resource constraints the Department of Land Affairs and Department of Agriculture have faced during the implementation of their programmes.

Secondly, the LRAD Programme was intended for beneficiaries that aspired to farm commercially but also provided for beneficiaries who only wanted land for subsistence purposes under a category called Food Safety Net Projects. So for the government to say that 90% of LRAD projects have failed is misleading and for the new minister to state that the government will take back land that is not utilised is unfair on beneficiaries who were given security of tenure for subsistence farming.

Government land reform policy coupled with poor resource allocation, programme implementation and agricultural support are the primary reasons for the failure of land reform. Until there is the political will to fund and implement a comprehensive programme of land and agrarian reform involving all stakeholders and utilising innovative policy to effect real transformation, the impact of land reform on the lives of rural people will continue to be limited.


• Daniel Bailey is a local researcher and has conducted a case study on the LRAD Programme in KwaZulu-Natal.

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