The Historical Context of Land Reform in South Africa and Early Policies


  • Henk J Kloppers North West University (Potchefstroom Campus)
  • Gerrit J Pienaar North West University (Potchefstroom Campus)



Land Reform, South African History, Land Reform Programme, Racial Discrimination, Land Ownership, Legislation, Racially Based Territorial Segregation, Historical Context.


The need for the current land reform programme arose from the racially discriminatory laws and practices which were in place for the largest part of the twentieth century, especially those related to land ownership. The application of these discriminatory laws and practices resulted in extreme inequalities in relation to land ownership and land use. This article provides an overview of the most prominent legislation which provides the framework for the policy of racially-based territorial segregation. It further discusses the legislative measures and policies which were instituted during the period from 1991 to 1997, aimed at abolishing racially-based laws and practices related to land and which eventually provided the basis to the current land reform programme.



Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...



Aliber Poverty-eradication

Aliber M Poverty-eradication and Sustainable Development (HSRC Cape Town 2002)

Aliber and Mokoena "Land Question"

Aliber M and Mokoena R "The Land Question in Contemporary South Africa" in Daniel J, Habib A and Southall R (eds) State of the Nation: South Africa 2003-2004 (HSRC Cape Town 2003) 330-348

ANC Basic Guide

African National Congress A Basic Guide to the Reconstruction and Development Programme (ANC Pretoria 1994)

Badenhorst, Pienaar and Mostert Law of Property

Badenhorst P, Pienaar J and Mostert H Silberberg and Schoeman's The Law of Property 5th ed (LexisNexis Durban 2006)

Borras 2006 Journal of Agrarian Change

Borras SM "The Philippine Land Reform in Comparative Perspective: Some Conceptual and Methodological Implications" 2006 Journal of Agrarian Change 69-101

Bosman Land Reform

Bosman F Land Reform: A Contextual Analysis (FW de Klerk Foundation Johannesburg 2007)

Boyle 2001 II&CLR

Boyle H "The land problem: what does the future hold for South Africa's land reform program?" 2001 II&CLR 665-696

Carey Miller and Pope Land Title

Carey Miller D and Pope A Land Title in South Africa (Juta Cape Town 2000)

CDE Land Reform

Centre for Development and Enterprise Land Reform in South Africa - A 21st Century Perspective (Centre for Development and Enterprise Johannesburg 2005)

Claxton 2003 Mich J Race & L

Claxton H "Land and liberation: Lessons for the creation of effective land reform policy in South Africa" 2003 Mich J Race & L 529-552

Davenport 1985 Acta Juridica

Davenport T "Some reflections on the history of land tenure in South Africa, seen in the light of attempts by the State to impose political and economic control" 1985 Acta Juridica 53-76

Davenport 1987 Development Southern Africa

Davenport T "Can sacred cows be culled? A historical review of land policy in South Africa, with some questions about the future" 1987 Development Southern Africa 388-400

Davenport 1990 Development Southern Africa

Davenport T "Land legislation determining the present racial allocation of land" 1990 Development Southern Africa 431-440

Davis and Corder 1990 SA Public Law

Davis D and Corder H "Restructuring the rural economy: Legal issues" 1990 SA Public Law 157-168

De Wet 1994 S Afr J Econ

De Wet G "The RDP and a structural problem in the South African economy" 1994 S Afr J Econ 307-332

Deininger and May Can There be Growth with Equity

Deininger K and May J Can There be Growth with Equity: An Assessment of Land Reform in South Africa (World Bank Development Research Group Washington 2000)

Department of Land Affairs White Paper

Department of Land Affairs White Paper on Land Policy, 1997 (DLA Pretoria 1997)

Du Plessis 1991 THRHR

Du Plessis W "Dorpstigting: SAOT en selfregerende gebiede" 1991 THRHR 444-457

Du Plessis, Olivier and Pienaar 1991 SA Public Law

Du Plessis W, Olivier N and Pienaar J "Nuwe grondmaatreëls" 1991 SA Public Law 255-269

Erwin 1994 SALB

Erwin A "The reconstruction and development programme: a view from the tripartite alliance" 1994 SALB 39-43

Feinberg 1993 IJAHS

Feinberg H "The Natives Land Act of 1913 in South Africa: Politics, race and segregation in the early 20th century" 1993 IJAHS 65-109

Feinberg 1995 Historia

Feinberg H "Pre-Apartheid African land ownership and the implication for the current restitution debate in South Africa" 1995 Historia 48-63

Feinberg 2009 Journal for Contemporary History

Feinberg H "Black South African initiatives and the land: 1913-1948" 2009 Journal for Contemporary History 39-61

Feinberg and Horn 2009 Journal of African History

Feinberg H and Horn A "South African territorial segregation: New data on African farm purchases, 1913-1936" 2009 Journal of African History 41-60

Fenyes, Van Rooyen and Vink 1990 Development Southern Africa

Fenyes T, Van Rooyen C and Vink N "Reassessment of the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936" 1990 Development Southern Africa 583-589

Godsell 1994 SALB

Godsell B "The reconstruction and development programme: A view from business" 1994 SALB 44-47

Hall 2004 Canadian Journal of African Studies

Hall R "Land restitution in South Africa: Rights, development, and the restrained State" 2004 Canadian Journal of African Studies 654-671

Harsch 2001 Africa Recovery

Harsch E "South Africa tackles social inequities" 2001 (Jan) Africa Recovery 12-18

Henochsberg Explanation of the Group Areas Act

Henochsberg E An Explanation of the Group Areas Act, 1950 (Butterworth Durban 1950)

Hiemstra Group Areas Act

Hiemstra V The Group Areas Act (Juta Cape Town 1953)

Kirkwood Group Areas Act

Kirkwood K The Group Areas Act - An Analysis (SAIIR Johannesburg 1950)

Kloppers Improving Land Reform

Kloppers HJ Improving Land Reform Through CSR: A Legal Framework Analysis (LLD-thesis NWU 2012)

Lahiff 2007 Third World Quarterly

Lahiff E "'Willing buyer, willing seller': South Africa's failed experiment in market-led agrarian reform" 2007 Third World Quarterly 1577-1597

Lahiff, Borras and Kay 2007 Third World Quarterly

Lahiff E, Borras S and Kay C "Market-led agrarian reform: policies, performance and prospects" 2007 Third World Quarterly 1417-1436

Levin and Weiner "Politics of Land Reform"

Levin R and Weiner D "The Politics of Land Reform in South Africa After Apartheid: Perspectives, Problems, Prospects" in Bernstein H The Agrarian Question in South Africa (Frank Cass & Co London 1996) 93-119

Lewis 1989 SAJHR

Lewis C "The Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act: The promotion of homelessness?" 1989 SAJHR 233-239

Mapadimeng 2003 Transformation

Mapadimeng M "The Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) sub-programme: Opportunity for or constraint to land redistribution, rural economic development and poverty alleviation?" 2003 Transformation 20-41

Mbao 2002 JJS

Mbao M "Undoing the injustices of the past: Restitution of rights in land in post-apartheid South Africa with special reference to the North-West Province" 2002 JJS 88-114

Mostert 2002 SALJ

Mostert H "Land restitution, social justice and development in South Africa" 2002 SALJ 400-428

Mostert, Pienaar and Van Wyk "Land"

Mostert H, Pienaar J and Van Wyk J "Land" in Joubert W (ed) The Law of South Africa Vol 14(1) 2nd ed (LexisNexis Durban 2010) 1-261

Murray and Williams 1994 Review of African Political Economy

Murray C and Williams G "Land and Freedom in South Africa" 1994 Review of African Political Economy 315-324

Olivier, Du Plessis and Pienaar 1991 SA Public Law

Olivier N, Du Plessis W and Pienaar J "Wette op grondbesit herroep" 1991 SA Public Law 115-125

Omar 1989 De Rebus

Omar I "The Group Areas Act: A historical and legal overview" 1989 De Rebus 515-522

O'Regan 1989 SAJHR

O'Regan C "No more forced removals? An historical analysis of the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act" 1989 SAJHR 361-394

Pienaar 2011 PER

Pienaar J "Restitutionary road: Reflecting on good governance and the role of the land claims court" 2011 PER 30-48

Platzky and Walker Surplus People

Platzky L and Walker C The Surplus People: Forced Removals in South Africa (Ravan Press Johannesburg 1985)

Robinson 1997 Brooklyn J Int'l L

Robinson L "Rationales for rural land redistribution in South Africa" 1997 Brooklyn J Int'l L 465-504

Rugege 2004 Int'l J Legal Info

Rugege S "Land reform in South Africa: An overview" 2004 Int'l J Legal Info 283-312

Rutsch 1991 South African Human Rights and Labour Law Yearbook

Rutsch P "The Group Areas Act" 1991 South African Human Rights and Labour Law Yearbook 98-103

SAIRR Native Bills

South African Institute of Race Relations The Native Bills Described and Analysed (SAIRR Johannesburg 1935)

Schoombee 1985 Acta Juridica

Schoombee J "Group areas legislation - The political control of ownership and occupation of land" 1985 Acta Juridica 77-107

Turok 1995 Int J Urban Reg Res

Turok I "Restructuring or reconciliation? South Africa's Reconstruction and Development Programme" 1995 Int J Urban Reg Res 305-318

Van der Walt 1990 De Jure

Van der Walt AJ "Towards the development of post-apartheid land law: An exploratory survey" 1990 De Jure 1-46

Van der Walt 1991 THRHR

Van der Walt AJ "Land law without the land acts - Predicaments and possibilities" 1991 THRHR 738-752

Van der Merwe 1989 TSAR

Van der Merwe D "Land tenure in South Africa: A brief history and some reform proposals" 1989 TSAR 663-692

Van Rooyen, Ngqangweni and Njobe 1994 Agrekon

Van Rooyen J, Ngqangweni S and Njobe B "Agricultural change, reconstruction and development in South Africa: Comments on the RDP" 1994 Agrekon 257-260

Wickins 1981 S Afr J Econ

Wickins P "The Natives Land Act of 1913: A cautionary essay on simple explanations of complex change" 1981 S Afr J Econ 105-129

Register of case law

Government of the Republic of South Africa v Grootboom 2001 1 SA 46 (CC)

Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers 2005 1 SA 217 (CC)

Register of legislation

Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act 108 of 1991

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998

Group Areas Act 41 of 1950

Group Areas Act 36 of 1966

Natives Land Act 27 of 1913

Native Trust and Land Act 18 of 1936

Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act 52 of 1951

Skills Development Act 97 of 1998

Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994

Register of government publications

Gen N 1954 in GG 16085 of 23 November 1994

Register of internet sources

SAPA 2010

SAPA 2010 90% of Redistributed Farms Not Functional - Nkwinti [date of use 19 Jun 2013]



How to Cite

Kloppers, H. J., & Pienaar, G. J. (2017). The Historical Context of Land Reform in South Africa and Early Policies. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 17(2), 676–706.




Similar Articles

<< < 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.