About Knowledgebase.land

KB.L seeks to bring to life all aspects of the South African ‘land issue’, recognizing that rural and urban land is both a deeply important aspect of our history, and an emotive issue shaping our political landscape. KB.L seeks to develop a comprehensive sense of this history, heritage and memory through a combination of news, commissioned articles and links to research. We also cover news from Southern, Central and Eastern Africa.

Why this site?

KB.L enables you to stay abreast of land related news and to access the latest research. Our research teams collect and organise news and research outputs by content and theme. We make it easy to find specific information and then to discover a wide range of related content.  KB.L brings all the threads together. We are working to develop KB.L into the definitive site covering land issues in South Africa. From April 2020 we are expanding to include land news from Southern, Central and Eastern Africa.

Our objectives

KB.L seeks to bring to life all aspects of the ‘land issue’, recognising that land is a deeply important aspect of our collective history, and an emotive issue which influences the shaping of our political landscape.

KB.L seeks to develop a comprehensive sense of this history, heritage and memory through a combination of news, commissioned articles, links to research and a repository of documentary photographs providing multiple perspectives on rural and urban land.

KB.L exists to deepen the conversation about the urban and rural land issues and to advance critical analysis of the policy and practice of land reform in South Africa. It aims to build an expanding national knowledge base that illuminates different narratives about land and land reform implementation to help us better understand our past, reflect on our sense of nationhood and consider options for our future. South Africa also has much to learn from experience across the African continent.

With the onrush of the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa’s deep structural inequalities have been laid bare for all to see. The socio-economic tsunami unleashed by the pandemic reaches our shores following close behind preceding waves of state capture, ratings downgrades and massive unemployment. This new context contains important challenges and will pose uncomfortable questions for land policy as we struggle to find our way forward. KB.L will cover these developments in detail.

The context

Over the last couple of years land has been making headlines. In February 2018, South Africa’s National Assembly passed a resolution to establish an ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee to explore and debate the need for a constitutional amendment to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation in the public interest.

The passing of this motion in parliament eclipsed the findings of High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change (HLP) chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe. In November 2017 the HLP published an in-depth review of land reform and how it has been implemented. Public hearings held by the HLP had given vent to citizens’ experiences of the failure of the land reform programme to advance equitable access to land in South Africa.

Given South Africa’s colonial and apartheid history, any discussion on land reflects the deep rooted inequalities which characterise our society and the persistent marginalisation of the majority of South Africans.

Many, including the HLP, have argued that the constitution already allows for expropriation without compensation. Some view the debate about a constitutional amendment as a polarising diversion which has prevented us from identifying and addressing the deep systemic problems undermining the performance of the land reform programme. Others argue that the politicisation of the land issue has played an important role in getting this unresolved question back on the national agenda which presents an opportunity for resolution.

On the 15th November 2018 the Constitutional Review Committee voted 12 – 4 to adopt a resolution calling for the ammendment of Section 25 of the Constitution to enable expropriation of land without compensation in the public interest.

The campaigning for the 2019 elections saw politicians compete to harness the symbolic power of the land dispossession with expropriation narratives so as to defend or enlarge their political reach. Now that elections have been held new approaches to land reform are required to advance the realisation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Phuhlisani NPC was contracted by Absa to prepare a series of open access research reports to contribute to a reliable knowledge base on land reform in South Africa. These reports informed submissions made to the Constitutional Review Committee tasked with investigation the necessity of amending Section 25 of the Constitution.

Now with the onset of Covid-19 the landscape has changed irrevocably. It seems highly unlikely that South Africa will be in a position to promote expropriation as we chart post Covid-19 recovery strategies. However the need for effective land reform has not gone away. The pandemic has exposed deep and fundamental flaws in our food production and distribution systems which will require imaginative interventions. As the historian Yuval Noel Harari has observed

“This is the most important thing people need to realise … that we have a lot of choices. And very important decisions are going to be taken in the next month or two. It’s a short window of opportunity when history is moving into … fast forward. It’s accelerating. Governments are willing to experiment to try ideas which previously would have sounded crazy. And once this is over, the order will solidify again.”

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“Issues like access to land, the right to fish, the need for work and the desire for justice are all hot button issue, strongly tied to deeply held values and eliciting powerful emotions. When these are at stake it is easy for facts to be thrown out of the window and for politicians and activists to seek simplistic solutions or gratifying answers. Pointing out the hidden complexities and uncomfortable realities can sometimes be a very unpopular activity. Yet we believe it is essential.” Andries du Toit

Who will benefit?

KB.L seeks to serve the needs of diverse groupings with interests in land and land reform. These include:

  • active citizens, civil society and community based organisations
  • organised agriculture, business and financial institutions
  • policy makers, government officials and land reform practitioners
  • planners, researchers and students
  • local, continental and international journalists
  • worker organisations and more.

What we will provide

KB:L content will be rolled out in three phases. The website you see today, is part of Phase 1 consisting of a News page, a page on Section 25 of the Constitution and a Landscape page that provides an overview of all things related to the land issue in South Africa.

This is only the beginning. Follow the link below to read more about what is planned for Phase 2 and 3.

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Website curation and sources of support

Phuhlisani NPC aims to generate lasting solutions based on research, dialogue and reflexive practice.

Phuhlisani NPC aims to generate lasting solutions based on research, dialogue and reflexive practice.

We strive to assist rural citizens to secure their rights and facilitate engagement to combat poverty, landlessness and tenure insecurity. We are part of the civil society Section 25 initiative to advocate for a land reform programme that prioritises the needs of the rural and urban poor. We seek to develop practical alternatives to failed policies and practices based on co-learning and joint action for change. In this we aim to strengthen essential policy literacies and implementation capabilities required to meet South Africa’s land related challenges in the 21st century.

Phuhlisani NPC acknowledges the contribution of Absa to launch the first phase of KB.L. Our aim is further develop content and services  which contribute to applied thinking about what needs to be done to redesign and implement a sustainable land reform programme that serves the needs of the many and not the few.


Phase 1 funding was made available by Absa

Phase 1 funding was made available by Absa


All photos used on this site are open source. Thumbnail images accompanying news articles may be subject to copyright.

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Inflationary pressures and droughts affecting livestock farmers in Midlands @ZiLAN2015 https://www.chronicle.co.zw/farmers-trim-livestock-head-amid-dwingling-pastures/

(JUST IN) The National Assembly's Programme Committee resolves to suspend the process to amend section 25 of the constitution to give effect to land expropriation without compensation pending certainty on #Covid_19SA regulations that can allow public participation. #sabcnews

There have been billions disbursed to assist with the tough times #COVID19 has exacerbated in SA. Where have they gone? There has been corruption reported on the dissemination of food parcels and selling of essential worker/travel permits.

This is a matter of transparency. https://twitter.com/LRC_SouthAfrica/status/1265586415624245248

Dr Thula Sizwe Dlamini and Watson Vuyo Matsa are co-founders of eSusFarm Africa. eSusFarm® is an agri-fintech that specialises in tracking and providing advanced agricultural statistical data to smallholder farmers and the entire agri-value chain. https://www.ru.ac.za/latestnews/rhodesuniversityalumnigetworldbanktopinnovationaward.html

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A project of Phuhlisani NPC supported by Absa. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. International License.