Introducing CSR - the missing ingredient in the Land Reform recipe?

28 July 2014

In reaction to the unequal land ownership brought about by decades of apartheid, the first democratically elected government embarked on an extensive land reform programme - a programme consisting of the three constitutionally protected pillars: restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. The aim of this programme is not only to provide for restitution to persons who lost their land as a result of racially based measures, but also provide previously disadvantaged South Africans with access to land in order to address the unequal land ownership. This research focuses on the restitution and redistribution pillars of the land reform programme. The progress made in terms of both these sub-programmes has been disappointing. With reference to redistribution the government has set the target to redistribute 30% of white owned commercial agricultural land to black persons by 2014. To date, less than 10% of this target has been achieved and all indications are that the overwhelming majority of land which has been redistributed is not being used productively or have fallen into a state of total neglect. The state of the redistributed land can be attributed to a variety of causes, with the main cause being the government's inability to provide proper post-settlement support to land reform beneficiaries. Against this background it is clear that alternative options have to be identified in order to improve the result of land reform. This article identifies corporate social responsibility (CSR) as one of the missing ingredients in the recipe for a successful land reform programme. The article introduces CSR and discusses the business case for CSR; identifies its benefits; considers its possible limitations; and examines the major drivers behind the notion. From the discussion of these topics it will become evident that an assumption of social responsibility by businesses in especially the agricultural sector might contribute to an improved land reform programme.