State did not buy only 7% of the land it targeted

Farm labourers work in a field at a farm in Klippoortjie, east of Johannesburg. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Farm labourers work in a field at a farm in Klippoortjie, east of Johannesburg. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Did the EFF stick to the facts in its 2019 election manifesto? We check a selection of claims.

Claim: The post-1994 governments have cumulatively bought less than 7% of the targeted 30% of land meant for redistribution over a period of 25 years.

In 2012, then rural development and land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti used his budget vote speech to “clarify” government’s 30% target for land reform.

Nkwinti said the target applied to white-owned agricultural land – close to a third of which government wanted to distribute to the historically disadvantaged by 2014.

When the target was set in 1994, white-owned agricultural land was estimated to be 82 million hectares, he said.

The 30% came to 24.6 million hectares, which were earmarked for all three components of land reform, namely restitution, redistribution and tenure reform, according to the department of rural development and land reform.

The department pointed out that it would be incorrect to still use the 30% target as it applied until 2014. The current target is to redistribute “20% of agricultural farming land by 2030”, in line with the National Development Plan.

We were unable to confirm with the department by the time of publication whether land previously redistributed would count towards the new target.

Read the ANC manifesto claims we’ve fact-checked:

How much land has the state bought?

EFF national communications manager Sixolise Gcilishe told us the party based its claim on a 2016 report on land reform commissioned by a high-level panel on the assessment of key legislation and the acceleration of fundamental change.

The panel, chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, was tasked with assessing the effectiveness of legislation that has come into effect since 1994. Land reform was one of the focus areas of the panel’s work.

According to the report, authored by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas) at the University of the Western Cape, “about 5 million hectares” were redistributed between 1994 and 2014/15. A further 3.2 million hectares were restored through restitution by 2014/15.

This comes to 8.2 million hectares, or 6.7%, of the total land in South Africa (122 million hectares). The EFF told us this was how it reached the figure of “less than 7%”.

The latest available data, according to the department, largely correspond with the data in the Plaas report. They show that the state has bought 4.9 million hectares for land redistribution since 1994, and a further 3.3 million hectares for restitution. Land acquired for tenure reform (782 487 hectares) was included in the 4.9 million hectares, said the department.

It would therefore be correct to say that government has bought less than 7% of the total land in South Africa, but it is incorrect to say that the state has only bought 7% of the targeted 30%. The state has bought 8.2 million hectares – or 33% – of the targeted 24.6 million hectares.

Not all of the land bought or transferred to beneficiaries for the purpose of land redistribution is necessarily commercial agricultural land. According to another commissioned high-level panel report, “some land acquired may be in urban areas or in communal areas, and may have been land acquired for nonagricultural purposes – before land reform became equated with agriculture. Nevertheless, we may presume that most may be considered land zoned for agriculture outside of the former Bantustans.”

Redistribution, restitution and tenure reform

The EFF’s claim only mentions land acquired for redistribution, but land was also bought for restitution and tenure reform.

The Plaas report explains the difference: “Soon after the first election in 1994, an ambitious policy of land reform began to be implemented. This included a land redistribution programme aimed at broadening access to land among the country’s black majority; a land restitution programme to restore land or provide alternative compensation to those dispossessed as a result of racially discriminatory laws and practices since 1913; and a tenure reform programme to secure the rights of people living under insecure arrangements on land owned by others, including the state (in communal areas and the former ‘coloured’ rural reserves) and private landowners (farm workers, farm dwellers and labour tenants).”

The department confirmed that the amount of land bought for restitution excluded cases in which compensation was paid because land could not be restored or because beneficiaries chose to be compensated instead.

Verdict: Incorrect

The claim that government has bought less than 7% of the targeted 30% of land meant for redistribution since 1994 is incorrect. Data show that it has bought a third – or 8.2 million hectares – of the 30% of land initially targeted for reform.

The EFF provided detailed responses on the sources of its claims but the party did not comment on our findings by the deadline.

  • This package is part of a journalism partnership with Africa Check, the continent’s leading fact-checking organisation. The project aims to ensure that claims made by those in charge of state resources and of delivering essential services are factually correct. In the run-up to this year’s national and provincial elections, it is increasingly important that voters are able to make informed decisions. This series aims to provide voters with the tools to do that.
Fact-checking 101
We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check. We do not concentrate our fact-checking on any one side. We follow the same process for every fact check and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues we fact-check. First we contact the person who has made the claim and ask for the evidence. Our next step is to check publicly available sources for evidence that supports or contradicts the claim. Having secured the evidence, we discuss it with experts where necessary to help understand the data. When we write up the report we explain what we found and how we reached our conclusion. We want our readers to be able to verify our findings themselves, so we provide all sources in enough detail that readers can replicate our work. Read our principles here and more information on how we work. If you think we're got something wrong you can contact us on or tweet @AfricaCheck 


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