News / Africa

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Emilia Khoza, evicted from her house when she was eight years old, at the Pretoria Land Claims office, Pretoria, South Africa. (Gillian Parker/VOA)
Emilia Khoza, evicted from her house when she was eight years old, at the Pretoria Land Claims office, Pretoria, South Africa. (Gillian Parker/VOA)

In 2014, 20 years after the end of apartheid, land issues remain as contentious in South Africa as they ever have. Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased, while legal experts are scratching their heads about how some proposed reforms would be implemented.  
 
Land reform is a prickly issue in South Africa. For some it conjures up images of land being stolen from black people under apartheid. For others, mainly whites, it incites fear of being evicted from their farms, echoing Zimbabwe's forceful approach.
 
Today, most of South Africa's most fertile land is still in the hands of a few thousand white commercial farmers. The government now wants to buy land from those owners and redistribute it to black people who were forced off it during white-minority rule.
 
The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill became law on July 1. The law reopens a claims process that ended in 1998, and gives people who were forcibly moved from their land five years to lodge new claims. If claimants are successful, they are given the option of getting their land back or receiving financial compensation.
 
Nomfundo Gobodo, who is the country's chief land claims commissioner, says the law is necessary.

"You find that peoples' wounds have not yet healed," said Gobodo. "No, they still remember… the stories where people say they went to school and when they came back they didn't have a home. It is really about giving back people's dignity."
 
However, the process is fraught with problems. Some experts argue that there is a lack of capital to sustain farms under new ownership and that many black farmers who would win land claims do not have the skills to keep the farms commercially viable.
 
More than 5,000 claims have been lodged in the first month. The majority, Gobodo says, are opting to take cash payment over having their land back. But she warns that this short-term win won't break down inequality and poverty for future generations.
 
"I think that the people really feel that they need immediate benefits and so they usually want to opt for financial compensation. But what we are undertaking is to try and convince people that the better option long-term is the land," Gobodo said.
 
The government has made big promises. But less than 10 percent of white-owned land has been handed over since 1994. Out of the nearly 80,000 land claims submitted during the 1990s, 8,000 still have not been settled due to protracted legal battles.

Corruption could also taint the process as politically connected traditional authorities try to push through large land claims.  

The better off may reap the rewards of a scheme originally designed to reduce poverty and inequality says Ruth Hall, an associate professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies.
 
"[There are] many more challenges - the question of how to distribute the land? And the one of the most contentious issues is who should get it?" she said. "Here there are powerful lobbies in favor of black commercial farmers who would like to get access and would like to get state subsidies to do so."
 
Some politicians are calling for a more drastic approach - including taking land from white farmers without compensation.
 
The government is considering a proposal to transfer a 50 percent share of commercial farmland to workers in proportion to the amount of time they have worked on the land.
 
It would be an unprecedented move in land reform. Heated parliamentary discussions and outcry from farmers suggest a rocky road ahead.
 
Hall says there is huge disconnect between policy and the demands of rural people.
 
"Many of the farm workers organizations we've been working with have been saying, 'We didn't want to have equity in the commercial farms where we already have experienced oppression," she said. "We would much rather have land of our own.' And that is what we are asking government for, give us land of our own and also many people would like to remain in their jobs on farms, give us better living and working conditions, implement and enforce minimum wages.'"
 
Whichever way the debate turns, it is clear that South Africa's land issues are far from over.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid