Land in southern Africa is an emotive and volatile issue which lends itself to political exploitation. There are a number of structural differences between the situation surrounding land reform in South Africa and Zimbabwe. However, events in the latter country do show that failed land reform programmes can have major consequences in any country in the subcontinent with a history of inequality and colonial dispossession.

For these reasons, it is imperative that South Africa’s land reform programme should succeed. At the moment, the South African government is struggling to meet its own land reform targets, and there are signs of impatience among politicians, government officials, and members of the public.

Recently, President Thabo Mbeki himself warned in parliament that what he saw as continued white resistance to restitution and redistribution could undermine the ‘historic compromise’ of 1994 in respect of land (ie, that property rights would be upheld in return for a willingness on the part of white South Africans to contribute to land reform), as embodied in the new constitution.

This publication is available in a full and an abridged version:

Full versions of CDE reports synthesise all the research papers that were commissioned for the project and report in detail the policy recommendations CDE developed from them. Such reports are usually around 100 pages long and are written in an academic style.

Abridged versions highlight the main outcomes of the research and summarise the key policy recommendations. These are documents of about 20 – 30 pages, written in a more accessible style.