South Africa

Despite the achievement of Constitutional democracy in 1994, 'the land question' is at the heart of South Africa's struggles to overcome the cumulative legacies of nearly 350 years of white minority rule. The emotive quality of land policies evokes painful legacies fuelled by disappointments with the official land reform programme ushered in by the new Constitution of 1996. There is broad agreement that land reform programmes have not fulfilled their aims to significantly redistribute land and productive agrarian capacity, strengthen land tenure for the majority, and settle the restitution claims of victims of land dispossession. Anchored as land issues are in rampant economic inequality, poverty and growing unemployment, historic identity politics associated with land is being reinvigorated.

The added reality is that agrarian reform is limited by poor arable potential, estimated at around 11% of the country's 1.22 million km2 land surface. There are significant ecological variations ranging from dry conditions (desert and semi-desert) in the west, to bands of higher rainfall regions in the east, with 28% of the land surface receiving 600mm or more of rain per annum. Most land is suitable only for extensive livestock production [1]. Pre-colonial and early colonial society was mainly pastoral, while the key resources that led to the industrial and agricultural revolutions in the late nineteenth century were minerals, in which the country is rich. This resulted in a relatively large European settler population owning most of the land, with black labour reserves servicing the mining industry. The socio-spatial configurations thus followed racial, linguistic, cultural and class lines that have proven resistant to change.

The apotheosis of white minority rule was the Apartheid state from the mid-twentieth century, which enforced race-based discriminatory legislation accompanied by forced removals aimed at complete spatial segregation of races. Africans were expected to reside in ethnic homeland or 'bantustan' enclaves according to 10 cultural-linguistic categories under supposed self-rule, while rural reserves were also created for mixed race people and indigenous Khoisan people (formerly hunter-gatherers) who in South Africa were referred to as 'coloureds'. Urban areas were strictly racially segregated. Although this goal was never fully achieved, most of the land was, and still is, formally owned, but not predominantly occupied by, whites. Large numbers of blacks and coloureds live on white-owned commercial farmland as workers, labour tenants or insecure occupiers.

In spite of an extensive land reform programme to change these patterns, land access, use, ownership and governance continue to mirror historic patterns of racial spatial inequality and legal pluralism [2]. The future trajectory is highly contested, with calls for more radical policies to redistribute land.



Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure

Legend: National laws adoption of the VGGT principle
  • Fully adopt
  • Partially adopt
  • Not adopted
  • Missing Value

Note: The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (The VGGTs) were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012.

The "VGGT indicators" dataset has been created by Nicholas K. Tagliarino, PhD Candidate at the University of Groningen, with support from Daniel Babare and Myat Noe (LLB Students, University of Groningen). The indicators assess national laws in 50 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America against international standards on expropriation, compensation, and resettlement as established by Section 16 of the VGGTs.

Each indicator relates to a principle established in section 16 of the VGGTs. Hold the mouse against the small "i" button above for a more detailed explanation of the indicator.

Answering the questions posed by these indicators entails analyzing a broad range of national-level laws, including national constitutions, land acquisition acts, land acts, community land acts, agricultural land acts, land use regulations, and some court decisions.

Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF)

Please, select year and panels to show the info.

    • Very Good Practice
    • Good Practice
    • Weak Practice
    • Very Weak Practice
    • Missing Value

    Disclaimer: The data displayed on the Land Portal is provided by third parties indicated as the data source or as the data provider. The Land Portal team is constantly working to ensure the highest possible standard of data quality and accuracy, yet the data is by its nature approximate and will contain some inaccuracies. The data may contain errors introduced by the data provider(s) and/or by the Land Portal team. In addition, this page allows you to compare data from different sources, but not all indicators are necessarily statistically comparable. The Land Portal Foundation (A) expressly disclaims the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any data and (B) shall not be liable for any errors, omissions or other defects in, delays or interruptions in such data, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Neither the Land Portal Foundation nor any of its data providers will be liable for any damages relating to your use of the data provided herein.


    Latest News

    9 October 2017
    South Africa

    Mining companies have faced community protests and threats to shut operations, but many residents believe only tribal leaders are benefiting

    MOGALAKWENA, South Africa, Oct 8 (Reuters) - A new power struggle is unfolding in South Africa’s old homelands between global mining giants, traditional leaders and an impoverished rural populace.

    3 September 2017
    South Africa

    If we are to address poverty in rural South Africa, we must prioritise good governance practices among communal property institutions in order to ensure that beneficiaries of the land reform programme begin to drive job creation and play their part towards poverty alleviation.

    south africa township
    29 August 2017
    South Africa
    Hong Kong

    Last month, the South African Independent Electoral Commission announced in frustration that it needs USD 22.9 million to collect addresses ahead of a court-mandated deadline, a problem compounded by the fact that most townships don’t have well-marked street names.

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    AFRA uLwazi Edition 2
    Institutional & promotional materials
    September 2017
    South Africa

    AFRA uLwazi Edition 2 

    Conference Papers & Reports
    September 2017
    South Africa

    The Groningen Centre for Law and Governance (GCLG) and the University of Cape Town collaborated with the Global Land Tool Network and True Price to convene the fourth annual colloquium on Expropriation Law in Cape Town. The annual meetings of this project concentrate on narrowly defined aspects of expropriation, and facilitate discussion amongst international academics and other experts on shared issues in Expropriation Law. The project gives delegates the opportunity to participate on the global platform, alongside leading scholars in the field of expropriation law.

    A new land records system cover image
    Policy Papers & Briefs
    August 2017
    South Africa

    It is fairly well understood how an incremental settlement approach to addressing South Africa's housing and settlement needs works, but there is less understanding however for how an incremental settlement approach could work in the context of tenure security.

    Relocating to Alternative Accommodation: Legal and Practical Guidelines cover image
    Manuals & Guidelines
    July 2017
    South Africa

    Relocations have the potential to severely disrupt peoples’ lives and negatively impact their livelihoods, community relations and sense of security. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the relocation process should be carefully planned, well-run and participatory. SERI developed this set of legal and practical guidelines to assist those involved in the relocation process to navigate the complexities involved in planning for and carrying out a relocation.

    Protection Against Eviction under the Extension of Security of Tenure Act: Legal Rules, Principles and Process cover image
    Manuals & Guidelines
    July 2017
    South Africa

    This is a user-friendly guide that explains the rights of farm dwellers and the law in relation to evictions from farmland. It gives advice on how farm dwellers can navigate the legal processes involved in eviction proceedings and practically resist evictions. It is a resource for farm dwellers facing eviction from their homes, as well as for farm worker unions, community-based paralegals and lawyers. The guide was developed by SERI and the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU).

    Manuals & Guidelines
    July 2017
    South Africa

    A primer to guide rural communities in framing and devising collective action and engagement strategies to strengthen their tenure of land, fisheries and forests is released today.