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Phuhlisani NPC (Phuhlisani)

Non-profit organization

Phuhlisani began as a consultancy started by a group of people who wanted to support emerging farmers who obtained access to land through land reform programmes in South Africa. In 2015, after 12 years in operation as a Closed Corporation, the members of the company decided to convert Phuhlisani to a Non-Profit Company which took place in October 2015.

Phuhlisani NPC provides comprehensive services and support for sustainable land reform and rural development including:

The Land Portal is a Foundation registered in the Netherlands in 2014.

The vision of the Portal is to improve land governance to benefit those with the most insecure land rights and the greatest vulnerability to landlessness through information and knowledge sharing.

In February 2018, South Africa’s National Assembly passed a resolution to establish an ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee to explore and debate the need for a constitutional amendment to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation in the public interest.

Many serious commentators have argued that the focus on land expropriation without compensation is a diversion from a focus on the failures of the land reform programme to improve equitable access to land and the lives of the majority of poor South African households.

Since the passing of the Parliamentary resolution the term "land expropriation without compensation" has been used over 25 000 times in South African media, leading the Pan South African Language Board to designate this phrase as South Africa’s word/phrase of the year for 2018. However in the process, public debate on land issues has been muddied by the generation of streams of deliberate misinformation on social media platforms. This obscures key issues and challenges for which we need to find collective solutions.

This moderated online dialogue facilitated by Phuhlisani NPC in association with the Land Portal is in search of solutions. Contributors to the dialogue will discuss and debate the content of a pro-poor programme of land reform that can:

  • Actively promote equitable access to land in rural and urban areas to tackle spatial and economic inequality

  • Provide tenure security for 60% of South African citizens whose property rights remain off-register

  • Grow and support small producers and contribute positively to the livelihood security of marginalised rural and urban South Africans

  • Address the current shortcomings affecting existing restitution, redistribution and tenure reform programmes        

Ten core questions
The 10 questions below will provide the primary focus for the online dialogue. They will be supplemented by other related questions as the conversation develops.

  1. What is land reform for?
  2. How exactly can access to land support the livelihoods and wellbeing of poor people in South Africa?
  3. What has been relationship between the costs and benefits of land reform to date?
  4. What has worked with land reform in South Africa: where and why?
  5. What needs to be done to get closure on land restitution and accelerate rural land redistribution?
  6. How can we improve access of the urban poor to well located land in the city and tackle the effects of spatial inequality?
  7. What can be done to secure the land rights of an estimated 60% of South Africans whose land rights remain off register in rural and urban areas?
  8. How do we deal with the politicisation of land reform, and its connection with the national and the colonial questions?
  9. How do we obtain reliable open data to better understand who owns what and monitor the performance of the land reform programme?
  10. What should be the key elements shaping land policy and a land reform framework law to ensure that land reform benefits poor South Africans and does not become a vehicle for elite capture?                      


Welcome the online South African land debate. I am Rick de Satge - Director of Research and Collaborative Learning at Phuhlisani - a non profit company with a long involvement in land issues in South Africa. My colleague David Mayson and I will be working to monitor the flow of the debate, periodically summarise the discussion and introduce new questions and perspectives as we go.

The debate will be anchored around the ten questions which are set out in the background section above. To get the process started we would like to explore your perspectives on two foundational questions:

  1. What is land reform for?
  2. How exactly can access to land support the livelihoods and wellbeing of poor people in South Africa?   

The Bill of Rights in the Constitution provides the foundational guarantees for property and land rights. Section 25 — the so-called “property clause” — requires the state to take reasonable legislative and other measures to remedy the impacts of past racially discriminatory laws and practices which dispossessed people of their land and houses and rendered their rights in land insecure.

Sections 25(5), (6) and (7)

(5) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.

(6) A person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure which is legally secure or to comparable redress.

(7) A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.

These three clauses link land redistribution with tenure security and the right to restitution of property, alternative land and/or compensation.

While the Constitution provides the legislative mandate for the land reform programme there are many different perspectives on: 

  • why land reform is important,
  • what the programme is for 
  • how exactly access to land in rural and urban areas can actually make a difference to the lives and livelihoods of the majority of poor South Africans.  

We would like to start the conversation here - with the broad politics, economics and meanings which will help to identify the different framings and often fundamentally contested understandings of the land question in South Africa.  From there we will focus on a range of specific and practical issues. 

You can contribute by adding your responses to the Land Portal discussion thread below. Or if you prefer you can participate by adding your ideas to the shared Google doc, making use of the link sent to all registered discusssants by email. The discussion facilitator will upload your comments from the Google doc into the Land Portal discussion space as part of the public record. 

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