Concerns Over Land Reform in South Africa

Property Rights Alliance joins other policy organizations such as the Free Market Foundation in expressing concern and caution over proposed land reform without compensation policies in South Africa. With South Africa recently decreasing its IPRI score by over .65 points in this year’s 2018 International Property Rights Index, the threat of land reform is already affecting the nation’s social, political, and economic functionality.

South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC has long pledged to adopt land reform in South Africa; focusing on the perceived imbalance in land ownership. White farmers disproportionately own large swaths of quality land in relation to Black South Africans, but the percentage of land owned by whites has decreased over the last two decades.

Regardless, President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC leadership seeks to amend the South African constitution in order to fully and legally pave the way for land expropriation without compensation. Such a move would be devastating for defenders of property rights and liberty across the world and would even harm the very people the legislation claims to help.

Specifically, robust property rights protections universally correlate with higher rates of economic productivity and efficiency; and uniformly protecting these rights leads to equal opportunities for social mobility. The ANC government would be incredibly foolish to go after individual rights in such an egregious manner, and land reform without fair compensation would lead to economic stagnation and decline. Indeed, as seen in Zimbabwe, land confiscation and violation of property rights led to successful farmers fleeing the country, contributing to widespread inflation and economic turmoil.

In addition to the Zimbabwe example, other countries which have cracked down on individual rights have seen foreign investment decrease dramatically, hurting all members of society. Instead, the South African government ought to pursue policies that actually promote property rights instead of harm them. The Khayla Lam Project focuses on granting land titles to Black South Africans (without depriving others of their private property rights) and has been quite successful. Property Rights Alliance strongly urges South Africa to discontinue pursuing land expropriation without compensation out of respect for individual rights and the likelihood of economic and societal harm.