Property ownership and social relations on the land have changed significantly since 1994 in the Isidenge Valley, Stutterheim, Eastern Cape. In part this is the product of a partially-implemented land reform scheme and in part the result of African land purchase. In this article we chart these processes and their impact on rural inequality and agricultural production. We also offer some comments on the character and outcomes of land reform. In 1994 the Border Rural Committee, working with a well-organised SANCO branch, proposed a two phase land reform project: a village settlement for over 600 marginalised tenants where they could have secure rights to land, and the purchase of a further 900 ha of land for a smallholder farming scheme in this high rainfall area. The government implemented only the first phase. This gave former rural tenants security of tenure and better access to urban services in Stutterheim. About 10 per cent of those in the settlement who have livestock have benefitted from dismantling the barriers between them and adjacent state and private land. Beyond the settlement, black private purchasers owned about 55 per cent of the Isidenge valley in 2018 – a very significant increase. However, with a few exceptions, agricultural production has not been effectively maintained and some landowners find it difficult to enforce their property rights. There have been general benefits, as well as differential benefits, from the settlement scheme and the freedom to purchase. Increased security, rights and social capacity are all elements in the resolution of inequality and socio-economic changes in the valley have enhanced these processes for black South Africans.


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pp. 27-48
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