Fostering critical dialogue and debate on socio-political and economic issues

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About the Trust

As of 2 October 2006 our contact details will be as follows

Contact us
The Green Building
9B Bell Crescent Closet
Cape Town, South Africa
Tracy Bailey, National Co-ordinator
Tel: 021 702 0289

Email: [email protected]

Heidi Michels, Administrative & Project Assistant
Tel: 021 702 0287
Email: [email protected]
Facsimile: 086 670 6772

The land question in South Africa: The challenge of transformation and redistribution

Second conference of the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust
25-27 March 2004, V&A Waterfront Hotel, Cape Town

4Go to conference presentations

Conference aims and objectives

South Africa is a country with 'two economies': a core that is well connected to the international economy, and a periphery of informal urban settlements and rural areas. The latter are characterized by weak local economies, low-wage casual and seasonal work, low-income self-employment, hunger, disease and crime.

A crucial challenge for the country is to integrate the 'two economies'.

It is widely acknowledged that a key component of policies of reconstruction and development must be the redistribution of productive assets such as land. Land reform is also a political imperative.

Continuing inequality in land ownership is a highly emotive and controversial issue. On the one hand, commercial farmers fear a Zimbabwe-style 'land grab'; on the other, landless people and their supporters are becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of reform.

The aims of the conference were as follows:

  • To bring together all the main stakeholders to debate the core issue at the heart of the land question: how can a large-scale redistribution of land provide redress for centuries of dispossession while contributing to the transformation of the economy and the reduction of poverty?
  • To discuss critically the distribution of land - between black and white and between rich and poor. Questions of tenure security for farm dwellers and communal land residents are also vitally important for discussion, and
  • To provide a much needed forum within which the key stakeholders in the land sector can engage constructively on important questions facing the land reform programme.

The objectives of the conference were as follows:

1. To promote discussion and dialogue on key questions facing the land reform programme. These included:

  • what are the goals of land reform (historical redress, black economic empowerment, poverty reduction)?
  • who should be its primary beneficiaries (the rural poor, women, farm dwellers, emerging rural entrepreneurs, a new class of black commercial farmers)?
  • what are the appropriate mechanisms to acquire and redistribute land (e.g., willing seller/willing buyer transactions, land taxes, limits on land holdings, state purchase and resettlement, expropriation)?
  • what role can a rights-based land restitution programme play in changing patterns of land ownership?
    what kinds of post-settlement support services and training are required by land reform beneficiaries, and who will provide them?
  • what wider transformations of the structure of the agrarian political economy are required to reduce structural poverty and inequality, and what policies can promote such transformations?

2. To provide a forum which will lead to the acceleration of the land redistribution programme.

3. To produce a publication on The Land Question in South Africa: The challenge of transformation and redistribution

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Conference outcomes

The Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust's land conference was a resounding success.

  • The conference saw 70 attendees drawn from a cross-section of sectors, including government, non-governmental organisations, social movements, commercial farmers/private sector, politicians and academics/researchers
  • A number of commissioned papers set the scene for intensive discussion and debate on the key issues, and a wide range of views were represented (see Conference presentations)
  • International speakers provided insights on land reform in other countries
  • Working groups developed positions on the key questions, and presented them for plenary to debate, and
  • The Trust is in the final steps of producing a publication of the land conference papers (see Publishing and dissemination).

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Conference presentations

Area-based land reform
Ben Cousins, Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape

4Powerpoint presentation (66kb)

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

Progress and problems in land reform
Ruth Hall , Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape

4Powerpoint presentation (147kb)

Land redistribution: Suggestions
Rogier van den Brink, The World Bank

4Powerpoint presentation (94kb)

What is redistributive land reform for? And who should it benefit
Cherryl Walker, Human Sciences Research Council

4Paper (html 42kb)

Implementation of the LRAD Programme: Its accomplishments and challenges
Glen Thomas, Department of Land Affairs

4Paper (html 42kb)

The national context: Political challenges
Lungisile Ntsebeza, University of Cape Town

4Paper (html 27kb)

The land question in southern Africa: Lessons from Zimbabwe
Sam Moyo, African Institute for Agrarian Studies

4Paper (pdf 191kb)


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