Land redistribution through just and equitable means remains contentious in the South African political and judicial landscape. Under the apartheid rule, the distribution of land was aligned to race, with the minority white population allocated about 90% of arable and habitable land, while the majority black population was allocated the minute remainder, mainly in the homelands. Transitioning from an apartheid to a democratic state brought about the human rights laden Constitution which contains section 25 – the right property. Essentially, the provision calls for ‘expropriation for public purpose or public interest’ and expressly prohibits the ‘arbitrary deprivation of property’. Opposition parties like the Economic Freedom Fighters (‘EFF’) have taken a different stance – as they find the provision to be fundamentally lacking in addressing the glaring inequalities between the races where land is concerned – calling for ‘expropriation without compensation’. As a result and to remain attractive and viable to the voting population, the ruling African National Congress (‘ANC’) conceded to the amending the Constitution along these lines.
Since the democratic dispensation, the government has had more land transferred to the black population as “Land reform, with the assistance of the market, has, therefore, moved us closer to the 30% target than what is commonly believed…”. Efforts for land redress have not been without challenges. They have been delayed by corruption and the general lack of expeditious administration. In as much as gains have been made to redistribute the land back to the black population, the government has not devised sustainable methods to fully exploit the land for economic advancement. Similarly, the process compensation for land claims has been tardy. A considerable amount of citizens in the homelands have no real rights over the land as it is communally owned and much under the control of traditional leadership structures.
The progressive realization of land ownership to address past prejudicial and unjust laws requires commitment and political will to do.