SYSTEMS OF TENURE
Individual title can obstruct access by the poor to urban and rural land
Policies to secure land rights should begin by improving existing systems rather than replacing them, writes Ben Cousins
Individual ownership is not a silver bullet for the insecurity of land tenure experienced by millions of South Africans. Nor is it a solution to structural poverty. A range of other land tenure systems should be on offer, especially in those living areas where customary law is embraced, as well as in informal settlements and backyard shacks. Yet many commentators in the debate on the land question argue that "title deeds" (records of private property) are a key solution. Particularly vociferous are advocates of business-led development and free markets, such as the Institute of Race Relations. But arguments that seem to propose that land titling is the only thing that matters are singularly unhelpful. Individual ownership has many strengths, and is indeed appropriate for private capital and the middle classes. Extending the system to the emerging middle class, including black commercial farmers, is no doubt important. But if a large-scale, systematic titling programme is attempted t...