There are bigger issues than property rights in the land debate

by Prof Ivan Turok

How best to use land should be the central focus


The land question has been reduced to a debate between safeguarding property rights and expropriation. The preoccupation of both standpoints with the issue of ownership has diverted attention from the crucial matter of the use and development of land. Broadening the debate is vital to make sense of the current predicament facing cities, which now accommodate two-thirds of SA’s population.

The land question has been reduced to a debate between safeguarding property rights and expropriation. The preoccupation of both standpoints with the issue of ownership has diverted attention from the crucial matter of the use and development of land. Broadening the debate is vital to make sense of the current predicament facing cities, which now accommodate two-thirds of SA’s population.

A recent spike in urban land invasions has put considerable strain on city authorities and surrounding communities. Tens of thousands of people who were living in squalid and overcrowded conditions have lost faith in government housing policy and public consultation mechanisms. Opportunists have supported their actions by staking out empty parcels of land and renting out small plots for people to erect their own shacks.

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