Implementation of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Programme:
Its accomplishments and challenges

Glen Sonwabo Thomas
Department of Land Affairs

Paper presented at the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust conference “The land question in South Africa: The challenge of transformation and redistribution”, held at the V&A Hotel, Waterfront, Cape Town, 25-27 March 2004



This paper briefly highlights the accomplishments and challenges facing post-colonial and-apartheid South Africa in the implementation of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Sub-Programme (LRAD) of the Land Redistribution Programme. These are presented below in the form of a PowerPoint slide show. The paper also briefly provides a historical and political context from which the land question in this country arises and the state’s response in addressing it as well as a brief general appraisal of the land redistribution programme until 2000. This context is important for the appreciation of the objectives of the LRAD in particular and the land reform programme in general.


2.1. Its Historical and Political Context

The importance of land reform in South Africa arises from the scale and scope of land dispossession of the African people that took place since 1652. The dispossession was aimed at control and dominance over the black majority of this country by a white minority. Platzky and Walker (1985) provide a comprehensive account of the historical and political context of this dispossession, particularly from the late 19th century until the 1940s. What follows is a summarised version of thereof:

By the end of the 19th century millions of African people were displaced from their ancestral land into ever smaller and poorer patches of land resulting in overcrowding and environmental degradation. These were later to be known as the ‘native’ reserves, which served as pools of cheap migrant labour for white-owned farms and mining companies.

Many Africans were forced to enter into labour tenant arrangements with white landowners/farmers. Others were sharecroppers and rent tenants on privately owned white land. Only a very small number of Africans had title to their land. Africans could not buy land freely – in some cases they could only acquire individual title to land under a complicated and restricted system of trusteeship, where the Commissioner of Native Affairs held the land in trust for them. In other cases Africans organized themselves in groups and syndicates to buy farms cheaply often with the backing of missionaries. By 1910, in Natal alone, Africans owned about 160 000 ha of land.

During the first three decades of the 20th century there were struggles within the white ruling class over the precise nature of the uniform native policy that they all agreed was necessary. The differences arose from the inheritance of the different systems of African administration in the four provinces before 1910 and the contradictory views of white farmers and mining companies on the principle of African reserves. White farmers did not support the idea and white mineworkers did not share the same interests with their bosses on the mines and in the factories.

The first government of the Union of South Africa in 1910 came up with a native policy whose main thrust was to promote a stable labour supply for industry and simultaneously supporting the efforts of the large white maize farmers to smash the independent African peasantry. This policy was expressed in the form of the Native Lands Act of 1913. This legislation shaped land policies in this country until the advent of a democratic state in 1994. Under the 1913 Land Act the reserves became the only areas where Africans could lawfully acquire land. They could not buy or rent land outside the proclaimed boundaries of the reserves. Rent tenant or sharecropping arrangements were to be phased out over time. No Africans were allowed to live on white-owned land unless they were labour tenants or full-time wage workers. This resulted in a spate of forced removals that saw thousands of sharecroppers and their families being driven off the land without alternative accommodation. Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa describes these first mass removals in great detail.

In 1936 the conflict within the white ruling class was finally resolved. The voting rights of the Africans in the Cape were traded for allocation of additional land to the reserves. However, the land had already been promised in 1913 and thus no gain for the African population at all. This compromise was sealed by the enactment of the Development Trust and Land Act of 1936 which established the South African Native Trust (later the Bantu Trust and again later the Development Trust). The Trust was empowered to acquire the land to be added to the reserves and to administer it. It became the registered owner of almost all land in the reserves and thus ownership in the reserves vested in the Trust not the people who lived there. The Act also tightened the controls that governed the terms on which the Africans were to be allowed to live and work in the white rural areas.

When the National Party government came into power in 1948, it started to review the native policy. Blacks were divided along ethnic lines and grouped together accordingly to form what was called ‘separate self-governing bantu national units’. The implementation of the separate development policy resulted in the second spate of mass forced removals, which took place from the 1960s through the 1970s. Africans in ‘black spots’ – the areas where Africans had acquired freehold title to their land outside the bantustans – were forced to move to the bantustans as a matter of urgent government priority. About 3,5 million people were removed from urban and rural areas.

From the above, it is clear that land ownership and land development patterns in South Africa strongly reflect the political and economic conditions of the colonial and apartheid eras. The resultant pattern of land ownership in 1936 was as follows: In 1936, less than 2 percent of the whites had a monopoly control of 87 percent of agricultural land. Sixty-four years later, about 14 percent of whites, still have a monopoly control of 82 percent of the country's agricultural land. Africans who constitute the majority of the population have been confined to the 13 percent of the land surface of South Africa since 1936.

2.2. Response of the Post Colonial and Apartheid State: A Land Reform Programme

Prior to the democratic elections in 1994, the African National Congress stated in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) document that land reform was to redress the injustices of forced removals and the historical denial of access to land. It was to ensure security of tenure for rural dwellers, eliminate overcrowding and to supply residential and productive land to the poorest sections of the rural population. This RDP objective is appropriately captured in Section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa promulgated by the new democratic government since 1994. The section provides the framework for the implementation of land reform, which consists of the following:

1. The restitution programme [Section 25(7) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa].

The Act referred to in Section 25(7) of the Constitution is the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act No. 22 of 1994). This Act therefore provides the legal basis for the implementation of the restitution programme.

2. The redistribution programme [Section 25(5) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa].

The Provision of Land and Assistance Act, 1993 (Act 126 of 1993) as amended is the legislative measure that has been used to enable access to land on an equitable basis.

3. The tenure reform programme [Section 25(6) of the Constitution].

In essence, the national programme of land reform is a constitutional requirement aimed at bringing about the most just and equitable resolution of the land question. It is essential in averting arguably the greatest threat to political stability and peace in this country – unequal access to and ownership of land. Therefore, it is a critical element in the construction and sustenance of constitutional democracy in South Africa.


3.1. A Brief General Appraisal

In terms of the formula developed to deal with the unequal distribution of land along racial lines, private land can be acquired for land reform beneficiaries on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis or expropriated with just and equitable compensation. In practice, the Provision of Land And Assistance Act, 1993, (Act No. 126 of 1993) as amended has provided the legal basis for the implementation of the programme.

The approach is application- or demand-based and does not involve the prior acquisition of land by the State for subsequent resettlement. Because land was both relatively costly and unavailable in small grant-sized parcels, people wishing to acquire land with the grant had to form themselves into groups to acquire land on the open market.

During the first 2 years the programme experienced some difficulties and could not deliver as expected. Among others, this was so because this was a newly launched programme. The Department of Land Affairs staff lacked the experience, capacity and skills required in implementing the programme. Similarly, the Department had to develop a grant structure to implement the programme. From 1996 to 1998, project approval and transfers picked up. By the end of 1998, the Department redistributed over 600,000 hectares of land to approximately 35,000 households. This gives an average of approximately 17 hectares per household. The Quality of Life Survey, 1999 by an independent agency monitoring the effects of the programme, concluded in its report for the year 2000 that both the performance and impact of the programme had improved since the previous survey in 1998. According to a study conducted in August 2001:

"Approximately 87 000 households have benefited from the redistribution programme since 1994 both by accessing land for settlement and production. This translates to 435 people based on the average family size of 5 persons per household" (Mokoena and Thomas, 2001, p 5)

Mokoena and Thomas (2001) further argue that small inroads have been made towards reducing the white monopoly control of the 87 percent of the land surface of South Africa (overall, less than one percent of the country's total private agricultural land has been redistributed to various beneficiaries through the programme) and therefore to de-racialise the land ownership patterns in the last 7 years. This indicated that the redistribution programme had not contributed significantly to the reform of the agricultural sector since 1994. This has been so, among other things, because since 1994 the Department of Land Affairs was performing functions which were in fact within the Department of Agriculture's competency. The Department of Land Affairs spread its resources too thin on the ground between 1994 and 1999.

During this time, the Department delivered not only land, but also dealt with agricultural and housing issues that fall outside the Department's area of competence. In addition, in the first five years of the programme, emphasis was placed on land redistribution to the poor. While this had been largely successful, it has to be admitted, however, that the number of people benefiting has remained relatively small.

3.2. The Emergence of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Sub- Programme (LRAD)

3.2.1. A Review of the Land Redistribution Programme

A review of the Land Redistribution Programme conducted during 1999/2000 identified, among others, the following problems with the programme as it was at the time:

1.      The Department of Agriculture was not involved or limitedly involved in redistribution projects that included agricultural production.

2.      Most large group projects failed – farms were rendered unsustainable (no net income), socio-political dynamics within legal entities, etc.

3.      No post-transfer support for agricultural projects (Provincial Departments of Agriculture did not have sufficient funds to adequate extension services to projects).

4.      Too restrictive qualifying criteria – total income of not more that R1 500 per month per household was the main criterion used.

As a result of this experience, for example, a new sub-programme of the land redistribution programme was jointly designed in 2000 by the Departments of Land Affairs and Agriculture as an integrated programme for land redistribution and agricultural development. The sub-programme was to be administered and implemented by both the Department of Land Affairs and the Department of Agriculture. This is called the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Programme (LRAD).

3.2.2. A Synopsis of the LRAD

The sub-programme is intended to contribute towards both the redistribution of agricultural land and the stimulation of agricultural production with growth.

The LRAD has broadened the scope of the land redistribution programme by including assistance to black emergent commercial farmers but not to the exclusion and detriment of the rural poor. The beneficiaries of the programme in the main are farm workers and farm occupiers, labour tenants, the landless in general, the youth and women.

It consists of two broad product categories:

·         There is the product that deals with transfer of agricultural land to specific individuals or groups i.e. Farmer settlement. The applicable grants are the LRAD grant and the LRAD Planning grant.

·         There is also the product dealing with commonage projects, which aim to improve people's access to municipal and tribal land primarily for grazing purposes. These products are known as the Municipal Commonage programme and Tribal Commonage programmes and the applicable grant is the Grant for the Acquisition and Development of Land for Municipal Commonage.

The different products of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development sub-programme clearly operate according to different stakeholders/role-players, different financial mechanisms, different target groups, different delivery systems and different approval procedures.

The Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development sub-programme (LRAD): The Farmer settlement product

LRAD is designed to provide grants to black South African citizens to access land specifically for agricultural purposes.

The strategic objectives of the sub-programme include:

·         contributing to the redistribution of 30% of the country’s agricultural land over 15 years;

·         improving nutrition and incomes of the rural poor who want to farm on any scale;

·         de-congesting over-crowded former homeland areas; and

·         expanding opportunities for women and young people who stay in rural areas.

These objectives will be made possible by the sub-programme’s key underlying principles, which are as follows:

·         LRAD is unified and basic, it is flexible and beneficiaries can use it in ways according to their objectives and resources;

·         All beneficiaries make a contribution (in kind or cash), according to their abilities;

·         LRAD is demand directed, meaning that beneficiaries define the project type and size;

·         Implementation is decentralised;

·         District-level staff assist applicants, but do not approve the application; and

·         Ex-post audits and monitoring will substitute a lengthy ex ante approval process.

The mode of implementation is adopted in the interest of maximum participation of beneficiaries, speed of approval and quality of outcomes.

LRAD encourages participants to design what works best for them. To do this, beneficiaries can access a range of grants (R20 000 to R100 000) depending on the amount of their own contribution in kind, labour and/or cash. Beneficiaries must provide an own contribution of at least R5 000. The grant and own contribution are calculated on an individual adult basis (18 years and older). If people choose to apply as a group, the required own contribution and the total grant are both scaled up by the number of individuals represented in the group. The approval of the grants is based on the viability of the proposed project, which takes into account total project costs and projected profitability.

The Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development sub-programme is flexible enough to accommodate a number of types of projects. Purely residential projects would not be supported under LRAD unless beneficiaries seek to establish household gardens at their new residences, and unless funds for top-structure are sourced form elsewhere, e.g. Department of Housing.

The types of projects that can be catered for include – but are not limited to – the following:

·         Food safety-net projects

Many participants may wish to access the Programme to acquire land for food crop and/or livestock production to improve household food security. This can be done on an individual or group basis. Many of these projects will be at the smallest end of the scale, because poor families may be able to mobilise only the minimum own contribution in cash, labour and materials.

·         Equity schemes

Participants can make the requisite matching own contribution, and receive equity in an agricultural enterprise tantamount to the value of the grant plus the own contribution. Because under the terms of LRAD, the grant is intended for people actively and directly engaged in agriculture, the grant recipient in the case of the equity scheme will be both a co-owner and employee of the farm. The purchased equity should be marketable in order to retain its value.

·         Production for markets

Some participants will enter LRAD to engage in commercial agricultural activities. They will access the grant and combine it with normal bank loans, approved under standard banking procedures, and their own assets and cash to purchase a farm. These farmers will typically have more farming experience and expertise than those accessing land for subsistence or food-safety-net-type activities.

·         Agriculture in communal areas

Many people living in communal areas already have secure access to agricultural land, but may not have the means to make productive use of that land. Such people would be eligible to apply for assistance so as to make productive investments in their land such as infrastructure or land improvements. These projects may take on the character of food safety-net projects, or may be more commercially oriented.


Department of Land Affairs (2000) Report: Monitoring and Evaluating the Quality of Life of Land Reform Beneficiaries: 1998/1999, Pretoria

Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs (2001) Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development: A sub-programme of the Land Redistribution Programme

Mokoena, M R and Thomas, G S (2001) Re-examination of South Africa’s Land Redistribution Programme in Addressing Farmer Instability Issues: Policy, Goals, Objectives and Products Revised. A paper prepared for the 8th Annual Agriculture Management Conference, 2001

Platzky, L and Walker, C (1985) The Surplus People: Forced Removals in South Africa, Johannesburg, Ravan Press

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996)