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Somehow, land expropriation has become central to demands for radical economic transformation. Its supporters present it as a panacea for most of SA’s socioeconomic ills, extending beyond the obvious challenge of rural landlessness to overall economic and social inequalities, widespread poverty and the pressure on metropolitan housing. Land ownership has long been a powerful symbol of oppression in SA. The violent dispossession of African communities from the 19th century through to 1994 destroyed livelihoods and often families, laying the foundation for apartheid’s vicious residential policies and the migrant labour system. Many longstanding city residents can tell you about grandparents or great-grandparents who were reduced from independent farmers to labour tenants, then pushed off their land altogether. Today, however, land ownership is no longer a central cause of inequality, and the Constitution already permits expropriation for land reform.True, the state’s armed theft of la...

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