South Africans’ Views on Land Reform: Evidence from the South African Reconciliation Barometer

This paper has broadly explored four important aspects of land reform in South Africa, with a view to informing the present land debate with public opinion data from the SARB surveys. Firstly, by providing a historical overview of land and property relations in colonial apartheid South Africa, this paper has shown why land reform is necessary to address centuries of racialized imbalances and underdevelopment. Equally, post apartheid legislative reforms have failed to bring about the expected changes in land relations in democratic South Africa. Secondly, this paper established that most South Africans (75 per cent) agree that the system of apartheid and colonialism was ‘a crime against humanity’. Specifically, the SARB surveys reveal that about two-thirds (68–69 per cent) of South Africans agree that apartheid’s legacy of spatial planning and influx control has been to the detriment of Black South Africans and the benefit of White South Africans. Thirdly, the results of the 2017 SARB survey show that most South Africans agree that land reform is an important means to ‘address inequality’ (64 per cent) and further ‘the reconciliation process’ (63 per cent), and that both ‘government and privately owned land’ should be redistributed (65 per cent). Fourthly, earlier SARB surveys asked South Africans whether it was likely or unlikely that their property or land would be taken away in future. This question helps to assess whether people believe their property or land tenure rights are secure. Until 2011, most South Africans (62 per cent) believed it was ‘unlikely’ their land or property would be taken away.