south africa land reform

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.


LRC Guest Contributor – Lelethu Mgedezi

Lelethu Mgedezi

Lelethu Mgedezi is an attorney who holds an LLM in International Trade Law from Stellenbosch University, an LLB from the University of Fort Hare and an Introduction to Thought Leadership for Africa’s Renewals certificate from the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (UNISA). As a student, she formed a sorority aimed at empowering female students mainly with strategies of advancing their livelihood. She has served her articles in public and private institutions. She worked for the Legal Aid South Africa where she mainly offered free legal services to clients in criminal and civil matters. She then ceded her articles to Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys where she was mainly involved in civil litigation. She also has vast experience in legal insurance where she assisted policy holders with legal advice, informal mediation and policy claims. Her engagement in civil society commenced at the Women’s Legal Centre where her key roles were to offer free legal advice to women and  to identify potential class action cases for developing public law jurisprudence for the benefit of women.

She is passionate about the development of the livelihood of vulnerable groups and the previously disadvantaged, using the law. She has joined the LRC as an attorney to work in the Constitutional Litigation Unit.

Inspired by our history, the Constitution and international human rights standards, the LRC is committed to a fully democratic society based on the principle of substantive equality. The LRC seeks to ensure that the principles, rights and responsibilities enshrined in our national Constitution are respected, promoted, protected and fulfilled.