Two decades ago those who predicted that land ownership would become SA’s great issue of contention were considered pretty eccentric. They came in two varieties: scaremongering whites who hankered after a volkstaat, and the rapidly disintegrating support base of the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC).

The rest of us knew better. SA, we said, was urbanising at pace. The young were abandoning the countryside and had long given up any desire to farm. Rural SA was increasingly a dumping ground for the old, the young and those who had failed to make it. Those with the wherewithal to make trouble were simply not interested in land; their hearts lay elsewhere. If there was going to be a reckoning in SA it would be over a stake in the cities: the burning issues would be jobs, crime, education and a decent place to live.

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