Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

South Africa: Land reform or just propaganda?

The new land reform project, led by Cyril Ramaphosa, has caused serious controversies. One of the most important reasons why the issue is making an agenda at the international level is the possible that white-owned lands may have been purchased without any compensation, unlike past practices.
The land reform issue is an argument frequently used by the ANC during its long-term rule. How they realize this land reform will be a long debate.


İn fact, whites; who make up only 9% of the 56 million population, own more than 70 per cent of agricultural land today. İn this context, ANC, created an equality policy against the Apartheid legacy.  ANC’s land reform promises are aimed at empowering black farm workers and reducing inequality. It is believed that this will enable previously unemployed people to participate in building the economy.

The Land Reform Process focused on three areas: restitution, land tenure reform and land redistribution. Restitution, where the government compensates (monetary) individuals who had been forcefully removed from their lands, has been very unsuccessful and the policy has now shifted to redistribution with secure land tenure. Land tenure reform is a system of recognizing people’s right to own land and therefore control land.

In 2000 the South African Government decided to review and change the redistribution and tenure process to a more decentralised and area based planning process. The idea is to have local integrated development plans in its 47 districts. This will hopefully mean more community participation and more redistribution taking place, but there are also various concerns and challenges with this system.


As can be understood from past experiences, the “willing seller-willing buyer principle” has a lot of problems. The simplest of these problems is to find a productive land and a seller who is satisfied with the sale at the same time.

It takes a long time to negotiate land prices with the current land owners and there are high possibilities of corruption. To be more precise, no land reform implementation that has been implemented so far has failed.


Many white South African farmers are leaving the country as a result of “systematic” attacks on white farmers since 2017. After the attacks, white farmers began to look for alternative countries where they could emigrate because of growing security concerns and the possibility of land expropriation. At the parallel, Australian Home Affairs declared that more than 200 South Africans were in the process of applying for Australian humanitarian visas. After a long debate in the government, special visas for white South African farmers looking to enter Australia is back on the agenda for the Liberal Party.

Also, the white farmers who leave South Africa migrate to where they can do farming such as America, Argentina and Brazil.

On the other hand, many farmers, who believe the possibility of expropriation, have taken some measures. The most important of these measures is to take out loans by mortgages on land.

According to some financial experts, it is not possible for the South African state to pay the loans received by white farmers. The worst scenario is, South Africa’s banking and financial system may collapse if land mortgages are not paid.

EFF factor

EFF is currently the third-largest party in both houses of the South African Parliament.

First, the big baseline numbers: the EFF finished with 8.25% in 2016, up by 1.91 percentage points from the 6.34% it managed in 2014 (growth of 30.1%). According to some political analysts, Julius Malema’s party EFF may reach around 12 -13% of the general elections in next year.

The EFF has put the discourse of expropriation (without compensation) of all the land belonging to whites into the centre of the election campaign. Adding that all the votes EFF has taken from the radical voters of the ANC can help us understand the importance of Malema’s political discourse.


The ANC’s land reform law has achieved its strategic objectives. However, the prospect of expropriation causes the South African Rand to lose value.

One of the countries that is not in favour of the ANC’s expropriation discourse is undoubtedly the UK. However, the 4 billion pound investment decision made after the official visit of the British Prime Minister Theresa May in August, to South Africa was a surprise.

But Ramaphosa is not as kind to Russia as he is to Britain, as he cancelled former President Zuma’s nuclear plant agreements with the Russian Rosatom (State Atomic Energy Corparation).

Cyril Ramaphosa, a successful businessman, knows better than anyone that South Africa needs confidence and stability. However, this strategy led to another problem, although it was successful.

An important strategy of the ANC on land reform issue is to ensure that whites leave the country, by making them believe that their lands will be expropriated without any compensation.

The ANC administration has two strategic goals in this context. First, to make the white farmers sell their land out of their own will and the second is to prevent the EFF from receiving ANC votes.

Probably, Ramaphosa will continue to keep the issue of land reform on the agenda until the general elections in 2019.

AFRIC Editorial Article .

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