Land and livelihoods: The politics of land reform in southern Africa
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This article examines the politics of land in southern Africa and, in particular, current processes of land reform in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It argues that, despite the considerable attention given to land issues in the region over the past 20 years, fundamental reform that shifts assets and opportunities in favour of the rural poor have yet to be brought about. Across the region, the legacy of settler colonialism lives on in a dualistic agricultural system that has been perpetuated first by deliberate state policies and, more recently, by the forces of deregulated capitalism. Small-scale agriculture, which provides a precarious living to millions of poor rural households, remains severely neglected by policy-makers in all three countries. Only in Zimbabwe has substantial redistribution of land taken place since independence, but here, as elsewhere in the region, the rights of small-scale landholders remain vulnerable and the conditions for agricultural livelihoods highly unfavourable. Recent seizures of commercial farms and other land activists in South Africa, suggest that demand for radical land reform remains strong among much of the rural population and shows how the land question has the potential to become critical in times of political or economic crisis.