Land and Agrarian Reform in South Africa: Land Ownership, Land Markets and the State

Dolny, Helena (1993). Land and Agrarian Reform in South Africa: Land Ownership, Land Markets and the State. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis deals with the role of land markets in the redistribution of land and agrarian reform in South Africa, a capitalist economy which is uniquely marked by the legacy of institutionalised racism and in which the land question is intimately bound up with both reparation and liberation.

The first chapters provide the political, historical, and theoretical context. I examine the evolution of diverse, racially separated tenure systems, some marketable, others not. I review Classical, Marxist, and neoclassical theory of land and rents and methods of calculating the productive value which may diverge from the market price of land. A comparison of international compensation practice in land reforms separates the issue of price to the outgoing land owner from that of affordability to the beneficiaries.

An analysis of agricultural restructuring and class stratification in white commercial farming and the black rural areas draws attention to the influential role of the state. A lack of economic or ecological sustainability is evident. A discussion of scale and productivity concludes that there are widely differing production functions affected by racial access to capital and skills and also by the communal inheritance of land use. It is impossible to identify an average rate of profit as pertains in neoclassical discussions on land prices. The commercial land market is unstable and influenced by the political climate as well as fiscal policies.

I conclude that effective land redistribution depends on the strength of political organisation. The state's role is to facilitate an enduring process of land reform through a conducive legal and economic framework. This must accommodate various categories of beneficiaries providing differing conditions of access. Neither a unitary free land market nor its opposite, nationalisation, can respond effectively to redistributive demands and social needs. Diverse land ownership systems should continue in parallel: a non-marketable component for the marginalised, conditional subsidised access to marketable land and the "open" market for entrepreneurs would continue with measures to promote redistribution. Tenure flexibility responds to social demands and can enhance land use; new forms which promote democratic management should be promoted. While petty commodity producers can improve their productive base through cooperation these will not succeed without democratic management and state support.

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