South African Land Reform and the Global Development Industry

by Thackwray Driver

Abstract

Over the past decade, “land issues” have reclaimed centre stage in international development debates, with Hernando De Soto’s influential work on land tenure and capitalism playing an important catalytic role. Post-apartheid South Africa has been highly visible in international discussions and debates about land reform, land tenure and land administration. The three major elements of land policy in South African, namely tenure reform in the former “homelands,” restitution, and “market-based” land reform, have frequently been used as an example or model in discussions about land policy in other countries. South African land policy has frequently been used to draw contrasts with the highly publicised land reform policies in Zimbabwe. This paper will analyse the way in which the “South African model” has been deployed in debates about land and development. It will examine in particular the discussions and debates leading up to the World Bank’s 2003 report “Land Policies for Growth and Poverty Reduction,” and the use to which South African examples and policies are put in the final report.

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Thackwray “Dax” Driver is CEO of the South Trinidad Chamber of Industry and Commerce. A historian by training, he has written extensively on land policy and administration in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the history of anti-erosion policies in the mountain areas of Lesotho.