A case study of a land reform project in KwaZulu-Natal with reference to the Nkaseni Restitution Land Claim.
The primary aim of this research was to examine the processes involved in the implementation of land reform policies in South Africa with specific reference to the Nkaseni Land Restitution Claim in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. The objective was to conduct an in-depth diagnostic study with a view to understanding the nature of the challenges, and to propose interventions that could improve land reform processes and the functioning of communal projects in the country. The hypothesis of this research was that the South African government's attempts at land reform have thus far failed to live up to expectations. Part of this research aimed to investigate this hypothesis using the Nkaseni Communal Project as a case study. A number of issues were identified as findings in this research and this report aims to present these issues. Through this study, the pillars of the land reform programme in South Africa were discussed as tenure reform, restitution and redistribution. While mention of the other land reform programmes was made, emphasis was placed mainly on the restitution policy which is the focus of this research. In this research, the experience of land reform in Less-Developed Countries such as Brazil, Kenya, Tanzania and China, has been reviewed. A lesson learnt from developing countries is that tensions and potential conflicts can hinder the process of land reform. It was also established that land reform is time-consuming, expensive and difficult. Some of the issues identified fall outside the mandate of the Department of Land Affairs, which recommends a clear framework for effective role-player participation with other government departments and other relevant stakeholders. A clear policy is needed on post-transfer support for land reform communal projects. This includes clarifying the specific roles, functions and powers of the different stakeholders. This study was also able to provide some evidence that there are numerous challenges that are being experienced by communal-managed projects that have been set up within the KZN Province. A number of the challenges emanate from poorly-drafted Constitutions of the Communal Property Institution as well as poor implementation of projects. The study was able to illustrate that land title can be transferred to the Communal Property Institutions, but that does not translate into the realization of secure individual rights of members of the institution. It was also noted that failure to address issues relating to individual rights allocation can be one of the major sources of conflict within Communal Projects. The research findings revealed that there was very little focus on empowering beneficiaries of communal projects to manage their newlyacquired resources once transfer of land had taken place. Also noted is that there was a lack of understanding of the Trust (as an institution) by some of the Trust members. Lack of co-operative governance was raised as a key issue hindering support from other stakeholders. The study revealed that there was a lack of systems or processes of dealing with multiple interests of Trust members. There was poor representation of women within decision-making structures. Lack of skills transfer to land reform beneficiaries is another contributing factor to the many challenges that are faced by the Communal Property Institutions. Beneficiary training and capacity building are key recommendations in the findings. From the start of the land reform programme, it was recognized that, given South Africa’s Agricultural history, transferring skills to beneficiaries was to be one of the key challenges and determinants of the land reform programme’s success. In the light of this study, a more integrated method of skills transfer at the community level would have many advantages, as it would help alleviate a number of the challenges currently experienced by the land reform projects. Lastly, the study also indicated that land reform beneficiaries were rarely experienced in making independent decisions. It is clear from this research that there is no blueprint approach to land reform, as each project should be designed for the particular conditions to be effective. The important aspects of both individual and communal tenure should be properly understood when reform initiative attempts to change social relations in rural areas are undertaken. There must be flexibility in policies regarding farm size, while support must also be given to proper training and extension aimed at increasing the individual farmer's managerial ability.