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Zenzo Moyo Examines Land Redistribution in South African and Zimbabwe

Land Reform and LivelihoodsAlthough land reform is meant to lead to socio-economic empowerment, “it must be borne in mind that simply giving the poor land without assistance will not result in the realisation of socio-economic rights,” Zenzo Moyo writes in an essay for Polity. He examines land redistribution in South Africa and Zimbabwe and suggests some pragmatic policies to ensure that it is truly beneficial to the poorer citizens of the country.

“Direct access to land, followed by government support, will allow poor beneficiaries to cultivate individual fields for the production of their own household food,” Moyo suggests. And, “government needs to be the purchaser of land that will then be distributed to different beneficiaries, accomplishing redistribution and transformation, but also ensuring food security”.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted by the United Nations in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. Amongst other things, the ICESCR’s intentions are to ensure the protection of economic, social and cultural rights to citizens of member states. This includes the rights to an adequate standard of living and health, as well as an adequate supply of safe food and nutrition.(2) Zimbabwe ratified the Covenant in 1991 while South Africa signed it in 1994, and in October 2012, the South African Cabinet approved the ratification of the covenant.(3) The South African Constitution has gone further to entrench a wide range of justiciable socio-economic rights in the Bill of Rights.(4) This shows, at least on paper, the importance these countries attach to the realisation of socio-economic rights.

Since attaining majority rule, both these countries have embarked on redistributive land reform processes. Should this be viewed as part of the progressive realisation of the socio-economic rights for the poor? This paper briefly examines the land reform processes of South Africa and Zimbabwe in order to determine if the land reform processes embarked on are indeed aimed at helping poor citizens to enjoy socio-economic rights. The paper comes to the conclusion that land reform processes in these countries are indeed aimed at the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights. However, the paper also acknowledges that the process of land redistribution in both these countries has moved very slowly, shadowing the desired effect of socio-economic empowerment. It concludes by suggesting policy measures that should be adopted to ensure that land reform leads to realisation of socio-economic rights.

Book details

  • Land Reform and Livelihoods: Trajectories of change in northern Limpopo Province, South Africa edited by Michael Aliber
    EAN: 9780796924131
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