Now that the ANC has passed a resolution at its conference and in Parliament that the expropriation of land without compensation is a desirable mechanism to use in land reform, should we expect mayhem and anarchy as anyone who wants grabs a piece of land? That is what some political actors — on the right and the left — want us to believe. The right wants us to beat the drum of the swart gevaar while the left wants to claim that it is delivering on radical economic transformation by being seen at the forefront of land occupations. Because land reform — especially through expropriation without compensation — is a process that can go awry and cause a great deal of damage to the economy, it is important to situate the latest wave of land occupations in the context of the past 25 years of urban development and settlement. It does appear likely that the ANC’s resolution has provided a new impetus for urban land grabs. The fact is, though, that land occupations have been a feature of South...

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