Robust reform rhetoric shared at the inaugural UFS Thought-Leader Series

The inaugural UFS Thought-Leader Series on land reform successfully launched as part of the Vrystaat Arts Festival on 12 July 2018. The next series is due to take place on 26 July 2018. Photo: Charl Devenish

During its 54th national conference at Nasrec in December 2017, the ANC accepted a resolution to expropriate land without compensation as party policy. This motion led to the establishment of a parliamentary constitutional review committee which has been charged with reviewing Section 25 of the Constitution and consulting the South African community before reporting back to the National Assembly.

Building on this backdrop, the University of the Free State (UFS) launched its inaugural Thought-Leader Series on 12 July 2018 in a bid to contribute towards shaping national discourse through intellectual discussions around the land issue. The series will take place annually during the Vrystaat Arts Festival.

To review or not to review Section 25 of the Constitution? This was the question that formed the backdrop to the first panel discussion tackling land reform from a legal perspective.

Panellists, including Prof Danie Brand, Director of the Free State Centre for Human Rights, Prof Peter Delius, Professor Emeritus from the Department of History at the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr Aninka Claassens, who is a Senior Researcher and RWAR Director in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and Prof Maano Ramutsindela from the Department of Environmental Geographical Science at UCT, spoke to the issue of restitution, shared findings on the potential impact of expropriation without compensation, and also touched on former homelands which are controlled by traditional leaders in modern-day South Africa.

As the conversation continued, members of the second panel explored models which may be employed as solutions to land reform. A commitment to openly and honestly discuss the historical background of our country in order to arrive at a consensus on how land is to be shared through nationalisation among all who live in it, in addition to agricultural programmes undergoing radical transformation, were highly recommended. Also tabled were suggestions to establish a land ombudsman to regulate the process in order to avoid the alleged price fixing in the real-estate industry which was alluded to.

This panel consisted of Motsepe Matlala, President of the National African Farmers Union of South Africa (NAFU), Dr Ina Gouws, Senior Lecturer in the UFS Department of Political Studies and Governance, Pitso Sekhoto, representing the African Farmers Association of South Africa, Free State (AFASA) as its president, Bennie van Zyl, who is a General Manager at TAU, and Annelize Crosby, Head: Land Affairs at AgriSA.

Engagements on empowering upcoming farmers with skills to work the land, targeting unused farms for expropriation without compensation, prioritising farm workers as primary beneficiaries of land reform, and maintaining the economic status quo in order to sustain food security, shaped the final panel discussion. Panellists and the public shared ideas on making government grants and subsidies available in order to accelerate land reform, moreover providing support and mentorship to new land owners.

This panel comprised Prof Johann Kirsten, Director of the Bureau for Economic Research, Stellenbosch University, alongside Prof Philippe Burger, Acting Dean of the UFS Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Theo Boshoff, Manager: Legal Intelligence at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), and Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza, Holder of the AC Jordan Chair in African Studies at the UCT Centre for African Studies, who shared their expert opinions.

On 26 July 2018, the UFS Though-Leader Series will host another panel discussion focusing on the politics of land reform, where representatives from South Africa’s political parties will be present.

For the inaugural Thought-Leader Series livestream recording, visit