Land Rights: Food Production and Expropriation Schemes

A bunch of grapes hanging from a vine.
Khoisan people dressed in checkered clothes or wrapped in checkered blankets.

As explained in the previous chapters, in 2018, the ANC drastically changed its policy on land reform, becoming for expropriation of farms and farmland without compensation. With this policy change, the ANC government intends to increase the speed at which land transfers from whites to non-whites are being made and make land ownership more just. However, in addition to expropriation of land without compensation being questionable from a property rights perspective, hasty land transfers may also bring food shortages.

Food production

The reason why hastily taking land from established farmers could bring food shortages is that new farm owners tend to produce lower yields than experienced owners. In line with this, if many land transfers were made at once, there is a likelihood that total food production would drop significantly, making South Africa’s poverty problem even worse. Discouragingly, this was what happened in neighboring Zimbabwe when the country had a large number of experienced, white farmers evicted outside of the law in the early 2000s.

On the other hand, few white people cared about the food security for the black South Africans who were once displaced. Now, many of these displaced people’s descendants argue that it is only fair that they get a chance to feed themselves without primarily thinking about the need of the country as a whole in some abstract future.

The Khoisan peoples

Continuing to add complexity to the land rights issue, another factor to take into account is the interest of the Khoisan peoples. Historically, they were hunter-gatherers or cattle herders in southern Africa before any white settler or Bantu black arrived. Having likely been displaced by both Europeans and Bantu blacks, they may rightfully be the first peoples to be compensated in a land reform scheme if chronology is to determine the right to land. Moreover, many Khoisans, over time, have mixed with people of other races and formed the base of the coloured community in South Africa. Both modern-day Khoisan people and coloured people, therefore, want their rightful share of land for being descendants of the indigenous Khoisan peoples.