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Comments on Land Reform, Income Inequality and Poverty Alleviation, Sipho Sibanda and Lesson to be learned from other African Countries Land Reform processes

Department of Land Affairs, South Africa

Extract from the Bank of Namibia's 5th Annual Symposium Publication 2003

Posted with permission of Mihe Gaobab (Mihe.Gaomab@bon.com.na), Bank of Namibia and President of the Nambian Economic Society.
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Introduction

Namibia's colonial and apartheid experience mirrors that of other former settler colonies in Southern Africa, Central Africa and North African sub regional systems. The former settler colonies of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Algeria experienced in their respective histories the following characteristics:

  • a racially skewed land distribution with a minority settler population having a disproportionate share of the productive land resources;
  • a dispossessed majority of the indigenous African population confined to the former home lands and ex-South African Development Trust areas (13 percent of the land surface area) in South Africa; the reserves in Zimbabwe comprising 40, 698.5 million hectares; the scheduled areas or reserves in Kenya which were located outside the so-called Kenyan highlands; and the traditional sector in Algeria;
  • a dual system of land tenure rights (registrable, tradable and transferable land tenure rights for the minority settler population on the one hand and land tenure rights granted on the basis of unregistered customary law rights on the other hand for the majority of the indigenous African populations); and an agricultural productivity crisis in the peasant agricultural sub-sector accessioned by high levels of unemployment, low levels of incomes and consumption levels.
Following the attainment of independence, these former settler countries embarked on land tenure reforms1 in order to redress the legacies in the land and agrarian sectors and to implement the reforms within the broader context of rural development. The extent to which these countries managed to bring about a symbiotic relationship between land tenure reform and rural development is an empirical question beyond the realm of this paper. However, the available literature suggests that none of these countries have been able to link land tenure reform with the general rural development strategy with the result that there has been a disjunctive between land policy and rural development strategy. The discussion that follows seeks to examine and analyse Namibia s approach to land tenure reform and rural development as articulated in Dr Werner s paper on land reform, income inequality and poverty reduction. The paper is divided into five sections. The first section of the paper deals with the general issues that need to be noted. The second section of the paper examines other substantive issues arising out of Dr Werner s paper. Section three examines and analyses Dr Werner s strategic options for dealing with the inherited colonial and apartheid legacy in land and agrarian relations. Section examines other possible options that could be entertained to deal with the same inherited legacies in the land and agrarian sectors in Namibia. Finally, section five brings into the examination and analysis of Dr Werner s paper, lessons from comparative experience with the implementation of land tenure reform programme.


Footnote:
  1. According to Professor John Bruce (1998), land tenure reform refers to an institutional and structural process of redistributing not land but rights in land. It starts with property rights (such as ownership, leases, servitudes (praedal servitudes, personal servitudes, usurfruct, habitatio, sectional title and a bundle of rights as embedded in customary forms of tenure) which are formed of a bundle of more specific rights and duties. Tenure reform consists of the removal of some of these rights from the bundle and awarding them to others. It has also to do with the adjusting of the relative powers and responsibilities among the State, communities and individuals. While land may not change hands, the changes in the rights and responsibilities have long-term distributive implications in so far as the clans, communities, families, households or persons gain certain rights. Tenure reform therefore, is not just a matter of changing the rules regarding the property rights, but it has to do also with the implementation of the rules. The changing of the rules dealing with property rights requires the recognition and reorientation of the existing land administration institutions or the creation of new institutions to administer the land tenure rights on behalf of the owners of land.


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