Compensation Through Expropriation without Compensation? Land Reform and the Future of Redistributive Justice in South Africa

The decision by the South African Parliament in February 2018 to review the constitutional property clause possibly allowing for expropriation without compensation has fervently brought the land question back into public debate. While expressing a deeply felt and justified popular discontent that land reform has fallen short of its promises to redress race-based dispossessions of the colonial past, this debate arguably also distracts from the fact that land reform’s insufficiencies have been mostly political rather than constitutional/legal and often related to problems of implementation. Moreover, this controversy raises thorny questions with regard to the justice of current and future redress and redistribution: who actually counts as a victim of historical dispossession and hence should be a legitimate beneficiary and who should pay for this redress today: the historical perpetrators, the current landowners, all beneficiaries of colonialism, society at large etc.? To put it more boldly, what kind of justice is being instituted, if compensation for historical expropriation is achieved through current expropriation without compensation, and is this the form of redistributive justice that will benefit South Africa in the best possible way in the future? This project critically interrogates the new developments in South African land reform with regard to these broader issues of redistributive justice. It does so through preparing and facilitating a constructive exchange amongst experts in the fields of land reform, constitutional and property law, taxation and state budget as well as redistributive justice. An international STIAS conference in 2020 will take stock of this exchange to be subsequently published as both critical commentary of and policy input for the transformation that South Africa so desperately needs.

Project leader(s):
  • Olaf Zenker (Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Fribourg)

One response to “Compensation Through Expropriation without Compensation? Land Reform and the Future of Redistributive Justice in South Africa”

  1. Rev. David Peter CARELSE
    Rev. David Peter CARELSE on 28 July 2018 at 14:22: Reply

    Congratulations with the goals of this Project, especially the crucial questions you intend to address. I humbly submit that retributive justice should be married with spatial justice. Furthermore the search for fairness and dignity for all stakeholders should be guided by an Ubuntu Jurisprudence coupled with a Theological ethics of human flourishing (Shalom /Jubilee)

Leave a Reply