One of the catalysts for the rise of East Asian nations such as China, South Korea and Japan was restructuring agriculture and, central to this, land reform. Through it, income inequality in these nations shrank as new farmer-capitalists emerged, with less money spent on food imports. In the South African context such reform raises temperatures, given our polarising history with land that is best captured by the 1913 Natives Land Act. But whichever side of the political fence you are on, there's a clear understanding that this issue needs to be addressed, and policy intervention is central. Our closest example of what land reform means on a massive scale was that undertaken by Zimbabwe's very desperate ruling elite at the turn of the century. Faced with possible ousting by what was then an emerging, urbanised and trade union-based opposition party in the Movement for Democratic Change, they unleashed an untidy and populist land reform programme that ruined the economy, setting it ba...

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