Land reform is a contentious issue in South Africa. Since the July 2019 release of the Presidential Advisory Panel (PAP) report on land reform, William Beinart and Peter Delius, emeritus professors at Oxford and Wits, have spent time analysing the report’s recommendations. They see it as a helpful intervention, but argue that it should not carry the weight of expectation that has been placed upon it. A central weakness is that it fails to locate its recommendations within the current fiscal crisis.
South Africa’s total government debt exceeds R3 trillion, a figure that is almost four times higher than it was in 2008 and 15 times higher than in 1992. Debt is now greater than 60% of GDP, and it shows little sign of slowing its upward trajectory.
The panel’s report recognises the severe capacity constraints and pervasive corruption within the state, but makes recommendations rooted in the idea that the state will be able to fund, launch, and oversee complex legislation, as well as new agencies and initiatives.
There have been two decades of unrealistic targets, unmet deadlines, administrative failures, and too many unsuccessful projects. What is required is a hard-headed debate about what is actually achievable, while also enhancing agricultural production.
The notion of land reform should not separate rural and urban areas within the discussion because they both play an imperative role in the wider process of economic and social transformation and fundamental challenges now facing South Africa.