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Independent Land Newsletter (June 2004)


An independent newsletter providing news of new developments in land reform in Southern Africa in 2003-4. Covers Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Posted with permission of Robin Palmer, Oxfam
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In March 2003 a small group of land experts met in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss ways out of what they termed the 'impasse' on land reform in Southern Africa. A report of this land reform 'think tank' group has been widely circulated with the intention of facilitating dialogue and consultation. As a follow up, a series of meetings with key stakeholders was held in South Africa in June 2003 by some of the 'think tank' group members. A major recommendation of the group was the initiation of an electronic newsletter which would provide news of current land reform developments in the region. This is the first of that imagined newsletter. The level of detail varies from one country to the next, partly as a result ofmethodological limitations, partly because there has been much more activity in some countries than in others. A number of future options are being considered, including the strategy for data collection in individual countries, frequency, format and structure of the newsletter. Therefore, any comments on the usefulness of this newsletter, and of ways in which it might be improved, would be greatfully appreciated. Please contact Nelson Marongwe, who is the principal writer ( or Robin Palmer ( who takes full responsibility for the final version. Needless to say, land is a highly contentious issue!

To access the full newsletter (of some 13 pages) go to:

Background to the original meeting of Southern African land experts
(Seeking ways out of the impasse on land reform in Southern Africa - March 2003)

The land crisis in Zimbabwe, which has captured so much international attention, is both part of a wider crisis of governance there and has also had major repercussions throughout the Southern Africa region. It has concentrated the minds of some, but has also frightened and frozen the actions of others.

Indeed, progress on land reform in the region has slowed rather than quickened in the three years since the Zimbabwean crisis broke in March 2000. Mindful of this continuing impasse in land reform and its implementation across the region, 14 concerned and committed specialists working on land reform in the region from a variety of backgrounds – researchers, trainers, technical advisers, trade unionists, donors and consultants (see Appendix I) – met informally in Pretoria on 1-2 March 2003 at the invitation of the FAO Regional Office in Harare.

Our objective was to analyse the constraints to sustainable land reform and to try to understand better some of the common points and specific features of the countries in which we work. Our informal group also sought – not without difficulty - to identify ways and means of moving things forward. These brief notes, written collaboratively since that meeting, set out a synthesis of our discussions and subsequent exchanges, and are designed to be of interest and help to others also grappling with these issues. They are followed by a country by country review (Appendix II) of the status of land reform in each country, and a matrix (Appendix III) providing an overview of current land issues in the region.

Our meeting covered the length and breadth of land reform in the region. The events in Zimbabwe and their repercussions, both within the country itself and in South Africa and Namibia, naturally dominated our discussions. In the time available, land tenure reform (as opposed to redistributive land reform) was only touched upon, partly because it is a less immediate issue. However, we recognised that tenure arrangements on land occupied and used by the majority of African farmers – women and men - in the region remain deeply flawed and insecure. Even where good laws are in place implementation is uneven and often tends to favour distinct interest groups.

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