Land reform is a key political issue mostly for the African majority whose independent farming communities were destroyed by white commercial farmers. It is also important because of the impacts it could have on urbanisation, globalisation, the liberalisation of trade, economies of scale, the modernisation of agriculture and the scarcity of water resources.
South Africa comprises about 122 million hectares of land. Of this, 100 million hectares are classified as grazing land and arable land. Of this, 82 million hectares are classified as “commercial agricultural land”. Of the non-dry 13.7% of total land area that is classified as potentially arable, most is owned by white commercial farmers.
At present in South Africa, land policy is geared towards balancing the goals of righting past wrongs and assisting the poorest South Africans with the important aim of creating a class of successful black commercial farmers, all within a market-oriented policy framework.
Our ability to maintain racial reconciliation, the commitment to our constitutional compromise on property rights, the health of commercial agriculture, the stability of our cities, and confidence in a well-managed, reasoned approach to public policy will be affected by how all of us – black and white; government, civil society, and the private sector – define, talk about, act upon, and assess how we are doing in respect of land issues.
The challenge facing the country now is to reconceptualise and modernise our understanding of land reform at the beginning of the 21st