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Card image 01 March 2017 Africa Insight, Volume 46 Number 4, Mar 2017, p. 96 - 111

The urban land question, land reform and the spectre of extrajudicial land occupations in South Africa

This article contends that South Africa is facing a growing urban land question as the country has been urbanising very quickly, with at least two thirds of its population already residing in urban areas. The failure by the ruling ANC to institute and implement effective urban land redistribution policies since 1994 has led to the rise of new land activism in urban areas. The country’s urban land reform mechanism, that is, land restitution, has so far been very marginal in making urban land or property available to the landless and/or homeless people. As a result, since 2014, the country is facing new aggressive extrajudicial land occupations in urban areas spearheaded by the ultra-left opposing Economic Freedom Fighters party, which is led by Julius Malema. Using ethnographic evidence, case studies and theoretical works, this article therefore contends that the national government is now caught between a rock and a hard place, because urban land restitution does not solve the question of the rising demand for urban land.

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