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PLAAS' Submission to the Constitutional Review Committee: Review of Section 25 of the Constitution

by Ruth Hall, Ben Cousins in 2018

It is our submission that land reform in post-apartheid South Africa to date has suffered from several key weaknesses. These include the lack of a coherent vision on what its main purposes are, who should be the main beneficiaries of policies, and how they should be supported by state programmes. Policy has not ensured that the different sub-programmes are appropriately aligned with each other, and with other relevant policies and programmes of government, such as water allocation reform. Together with weak state capacity, corruption and a tiny budget, these failures have meant that the outcomes of land transfers have been highly problematic. In addition, because tenure reform has been badly neglected, the land rights of many black South Africans are as insecure as they were under apartheid (and in some instances, may be even more insecure).

The Constitutional Review Committee is tasked with considering the issues of expropriation and compensation, and the question of whether or not to amend the Constitution. It cannot, however, assess these issues in isolation from the measures contained in Section 25 as a whole. If it does so, it runs the risk of making recommendations in a fragmented and incoherent manner, divorced from the actions needed to address the failings of the policy framework taken as a whole. We urge the committee to consider land reform holistically, and assess expropriation and compensation from this perspective.