The land question and land reform in Southern Africa

The land question and land reform in Southern Africa

Neo-liberal policy perspectives the major constraint to land redistribution programmes

This paper discusses the nature of the land problem in the region and tries to situate the general land reform process in Zimbabwe within a regional context.

It examines the four key land problems facing the region

  • the discriminatory and insecure forms of land tenure that are found among variouslandownership regimes
  • the increasingly imbalanced landownership structures and factors underlying it
  • the contradictory tendencies towards irrational land-use patterns through both the over utilisation and underutilisation of land
  • the devotion of most prime lands and resources to production for external markets rather than domestic agro-industrial needs

The paper assesses the effects of these emerging land problems on rural poverty and land conflicts, as well as how existing land management systems address these problems.

Concludes that the major constraint to the evolution of effective land redistribution programmes in the 1990s was the emergence and dominance of a neo-liberal, monetarist macroeconomic trade and investment policy framework. Anti-state intervention or free-market policy perspectives reinforced in Southern Africa the biases against nationalisation or compulsory acquisition of land and promoted the current focus on market-based approaches to land reform. Under this system, the prospects for rapid redistribution processes are not self-evident unless substantial external resources to pay for the land are introduced in the land markets.

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