Ben Cousins has recently argued in Business Day for a rapid and radical land reform in SA with the purchase or expropriation of 48-million hectares of commercial farmland, 60% of the existing freehold, commercial farmland, over the next 15 years. Given that both the government and AgriSA estimate about 27% is already in African hands, this addition would amount to well over 80% of agricultural land in forms of smallholding and communal tenure. He suggests it would be given to about 200,000 “market-oriented smallholders” — a rough estimate of the top 10% of existing smallholders. We agree that smallholders could be far more productive and should be much more fully supported. But we argue that Cousins’ approach radically underestimates the destructive consequences as well as the amount of land already available. The threat of rapid transfer of land by expropriation with or without compensation would lead to a wholesale withdrawal of investment and agricultural production as well as un...

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