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Land Reform

What is in this guide?

This guide provides government policy on Land Reform to redress the historical injustice on black South Africans of land dispossession, denial of access to land and forced removals. It has the following sections:

  1. The land dispossession of black South Africans
  2. Governments land reform policy
  3. Land Restitution
  4. Land Redistribution

4.1 The Settlement Land Acquisition Grant (SLAG)
4.2 Land Distribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD)

4.2.1 Objectives of LRAD
4.2.2 How does LRAD work?

  1. Land Tenure Reform

  1. The land dispossession of black South Africans

The Land Act of 1913 formalised the land dispossession of black South Africans. It limited African land ownership to 'native reserves', with communal land tenure administered by traditional leaders. By 1991, these former homelands covered about 13.9% of South Africa. Other laws prevented Africans from owning land in white farming areas and prevented white farmers from leasing land to black tenants and share croppers.

  1. Governments land reform policy

The democratic government in 1994 opted for a three-pronged land reform policy to redress the historical injustice of land dispossession, denial of access to land and forced removals:

  1. Land Restitution

Under the Land Restitution Act of 1994, persons or communities who lost their property as a result of apartheid laws or practices after 1913 were invited to submit claims for restitution (return of land) or compensation (usually financial). By the cut-off date in March 1999, 67 531 claims by individuals or communities were lodged. 72% of the claims were urban and the remainder rural.

By the end of the decade 36 489 claims were settled, involving about 85 000 households. For urban claims there has been mainly financial compensation for victims of forced removal and the total compensation made by December 2002 was R1.2 billion. For rural claimants, the restitution mainly took the form of the return of land and by December 2002 about 571 232 hectares were restored and at a cost of about R442 million. Government aims to complete all the land claims by 2005.

  1. Land Redistribution

Land redistribution is about making land available for:

During the first five years (1994-1999) the main emphasis of land redistribution was to provide the disadvantaged and the poor with land for housing and small scale farming purposes.

4.1 The Settlement Land Acquisition Grant (SLAG)

The Settlement Land Acquisition Grant (SLAG) was a R16 000 cash grant for which poor and landless black South Africans could form a group to apply to buy and develop farm land. The applications took the form of group settlement with some production, cooperative production and /or commonage schemes, or farm settlements of farm workers and farm worker equity.

The basic grant was supported by other grants, i.e.

  • for planning
  • for facilitation, and
  • for dispute resolution.

In most cases, farms financed with land grants and settled by groups (up to 500 households) were far too small to support all of the beneficiaries as full-time farmers. By the end of 2000, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs had approved 484 projects under the SLAG programme, transferring 780,407 hectares to 55 383 people, with some 14% headed by women.

Taken together, land restitution and redistribution has transferred about one million hectares (less than 1.2%) of the 86 million hectares of white-owned farms, to black South Africans over a period of six years.

4.2 Land Re-distribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD)

The SLAG programme ended in 2000, and the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) was introduced later that year. Its major difference from SLAG was that beneficiaries do not have to be poor to apply for the minimum of R20 000 land grant, and those who have more savings and can raise bigger loans to finance their farms qualify for larger grants.

4.2.1 Objectives of LRAD

  • To help previously disadvantaged people (Blacks, Coloureds, Indians) to become effective farmers on their own land
  • To help black and poor people in rural areas to improve their living standard by enabling them to access and use land productively.
  • To decongest overcrowded former homeland areas
  • To expand opportunities for women and youth in rural areas

4.2.2 How does LRAD work?

  • Applicants (individuals or groups) identify land s/he or they wish to buy. Applicants must be:
    • previously disadvantaged (Black, Coloured or Indian),
    • must be serious about agricultural production, and
    • must have the ambition to make a success of their farming operations.
  • The applicant(s) must approach the Department of Land Affairs for a grant.
  • To qualify for a minimum grant of R20 000, the applicant(s) must make an input of R5 000. The applicant's contribution can be in kind (livestock, machinery), cash or labour. Successful farmers who want to expand may apply for further grants, but the total may not exceed R100 000
  • Local officers from the Department of Land Affairs will help the applicant with buying her/his land and with the legal requirements.
  • Once the farm is in operation, the extension officers from the Department of Agriculture will be available to advise the farmer/s.

In addition to individual grants to buy farms or land for agriculture, the following types of projects can also be catered for:

  • Food-safety-net projects: communities may use the grant to get land to produce food or livestock for household food security. This can be done on an individual or group basis.
  • Equity schemes: individuals can apply for the grant to buy into an agricultural enterprise as owners and co-workers.
  • Commercial agricultural ventures: participants can apply for the grant and combine it with loans from normal banks.
  • Agriculture in communal areas: many people living in communal areas already have access to communal land, but may not have the means to make use of the land for productive use. People in these areas can also apply for the grant to make investments on the land such as infrastructure or land improvements. The grant can therefore be used:
    • to buy land
    • to make improvements to the land or add infrastructure (e.g. irrigation)
    • for short-term expenses, e.g. stock, seeds, machinery

Communal Land Bill/Act: This was finalised in 2004, and gives people living on 'tribal communal' land security of tenure. This is done through the introduction of administrative procedures to ensure communities living on the land are involved in decisions about development and selling of communal land.

The target for the programme is to ensure the redistribution of 30% of agricultural land to blacks by 2014.

  1. Land Tenure Reform

Laws were introduced after 1994 to give people (especially farm workers and labour tenants) security of tenure, over houses and land where they work and stay. The following different kinds of tenure exist:

The following laws were introduced to give people security of tenure:


ETU Paralegal advice website, chapter on Land and Housing www.
National Department of Agriculture. Land Redistribution of Agricultural Development. June 2001.
N Cape LRAD Project Guidelines. October 2001.


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