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.

 

Indicators

Agricultural Area (1'000 Ha) is the land area mainly devoted to agriculture. It includes arable land, permanent crops, and permanent pasture, as defined by FAO.

Measurement unit
1'000 Ha

Total spending for agricultural reserch measured measured as a share of the value added from agriculture, forestry and fishing activities

Measurement unit
Percentage

Distribution of agricultural holders by sex (female - Share %) according to the FAO Land and Gender Database.

Measurement unit
Percentage

GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates.

Measurement unit
PPP$ 2011

Estimate of the percent of total Indigenous and Community Lands - formally recognised by the State - as a percentage of the country's total land area.

Measurement unit
Percentage

Rural population refers to the share (%) of people living in rural areas as defined by national statistical offices. It is calculated as the ratio between Urban Population and Total Population.

Measurement unit
Percentage

This indicator measures the proportion of terrestrial protected areas as a share of the total land area in a country.

Measurement unit
% of total land area

Mapping

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Share (%) of Agricultural Value added with respect to the Total Value Added produced in a given country in a given year.

Measurement unit
Percentage

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Permanent meadows and pastures - land used permanently (five years or more) to grow herbaceous forage crops, either cultivated or growing wild (wild prairie or grazing land).

Measurement unit
1000 Ha

Infographics

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.

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.

Media

Latest News

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Green
27 November 2017
Kenya
Zambia
South Africa

Dynamic country portfolios combine detailed narratives with Linked Open Data to provide comprehensive overviews of land governance systems

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.

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 784
Reports & Research
November 2017
South Africa

The pleas of thousands of rural people who made difficult journeys to attend public hearings across the country are largely ignored in the amended version of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill set to be adopted by the National Assembly this week.

Reports & Research
November 2017
South Africa

Farmers’ interest group AgriSA last week released its own land audit. This filled in a major blank in the land reform and policy field: How many black emerging farmers have bought farms outside government’s land reform programme? We now have a part answer: they bought 4.3 million hectares.  Other findings from this study are contested and methodological flaws are highlighted.

Reports & Research
November 2017
South Africa

The mainstream in South Africa is paying little attention to the world outside the cities. This is a mistake because the future of the country’s economy may depend on battles raging in its far-flung rural areas. The latest sign of this battle is an attempt by some in the governing African National Congress to pass the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill, which will allow traditional leaders to enrich themselves at the expense of rural people.

Reports & Research
November 2017
South Africa

Residents of mining areas testified at the Parliamentary High-Level panel on assessment of key legislation and acceleration of fundamental change about the acute disruptions caused in their lives and livelihoods by mining and their concerns are dealt with in several recommended amendments to legislation.

Reports & Research
November 2017
South Africa

The Ingonyama Trust headed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu should be dissolved and the law that established it on the eve of South Africa’s liberation in 1994 should be repealed. This Act has effectively converted informal rural ownership rights to leasehold. Just days after the report was released, the Ingonyama Trust ramped up its campaign to persuade rural citizens to surrender their informal land rights to the Trust and to accept 40-year leases that could be cancelled for non-payment or other violations of the contract.

Reports & Research
October 2017
South Africa

Parliament is processing, or is due to process, six bills that have particular significance for the rights of people living in SA’s former homelands. Three draft bills have also been published for comment. Among these are the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill and the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill, which together echo and seek to entrench important aspects of the Bantu Authorities Act that shaped apartheid.