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Keywords:

  • Land restitution;
  • South Africa;
  • semi-structured interviews;
  • willing-seller willing-buyer;
  • white farmers;
  • Levubu

ABSTRACT

Completing restitution, a key element of South Africa's land reform programme, entails government acquisition of white-owned farms. Some white farmers are willing to sell and consequently the government has paid them full market-related compensation. Others, however, refuse to sell, a right they have under the terms of the willing-seller, willing-buyer principle to which the government has committed itself. Why white farmers refuse to sell, even when compensation is on offer, is poorly understood. This paper therefore draws on qualitative research concerning white farmers in the Levubu area of northern Limpopo province to fill this gap in knowledge. The paper asks why white farmers are refusing to sell land to make way for restitution. It interrogates the material and symbolic factors affecting farmers’ action and demonstrates that the respondents’ justified their stance in relation to shifts in power in the agricultural sector, developments in land reform practice, and the respondents’ strong emotional bond to the land. In so doing, the paper calls into question the underlying (materialist) logic of the government's mode of land acquisition.