Transformation through ownership: Ending 100 years of property deprivation

The majority of black South Africans still do not own property in land as a result of the adoption more than a century ago of the 1913 Land Act. As a contribution towards rectification of this situation, the FMF initiated the Khaya Lam (my house) land reform project which targets apartheid era properties in which black families have occupation rights but not ownership.

Essentially, the concept is based on partnerships between local authorities, initiators such as the FMF and private sponsors to carry out the conversion of these properties to freehold title ownership in the hands of registered tenants. To prove the feasibility of the concept the FMF established the Khaya Lam Land Reform Project, which, in partnership with the Ngwathe Municipal Council (with the unanimous approval of all political parties on the Council) is carrying out a pilot project to convert all municipal rental housing into ownership through the granting of title deeds to registered tenants.

FNB supported the FMF in discovering the best methods to carry out the conversions from leasehold to freehold titles and the registering of the first 100 title deeds. This discovery process proved to be most difficult and time-consuming, but now that the procedural problems have been solved, the project can proceed rapidly, smoothly and at low cost.

The second Khaya Lam handout of title deeds took place on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. Two hundred and fifty people gathered in the Barnard Molokoane School hall in Tumahole, Ngwathe to witness tenants of 156 municipal houses collect tradable freehold title deeds to their homes, making them property owners for the first time in their lives.

Martha Olifant (89), was delighted to receive her title deed from Mike Hull, who went down on his knees to present the document to her. She said she had lived on the site for 61 years and never thought that she would live to receive a title deed. What pleased her most about ownership of her home was that her family would now always have a house in which to live.


Matroos Ratole (97), born in the year in which the 1914-1918 World War ended, 5 years after the adoption of the 1913 Land Act (the Act that took away the right to own land from black South Africans), became a landowner in his own right for the first time in his life. A truly magnificent moment.


Julia Koloti (87) wept for joy as she received her title deed. Even hardened members of the media had tears in their eyes as they observed the presentation.

This latest handout of title deeds was made possible through sponsorship received from Dr Christo Wiese (Chairman of the Pepkor and Shoprite store chains) and his family, and various other donors. Dr Wiese, who personally handed over 100 title deeds to Ngwathe beneficiaries, has also sponsored another 100 for residents of the Cape Town area.

Founding sponsor FNB announced that, in addition to their initial 100 title deeds handed out previously, they are sponsoring another 200 conversions. Farmers Johan Dannhauser and Wynn Dedwith who sponsored seven titles each for their workers announced that the Weiveld farmers were, in addition, sponsoring 27 title deeds for non-farmworker community members.

Ngwathe Mayor Ms Joey Mochela spoke about how the positive partnership with the FMF is bringing benefits to local residents and of the enthusiasm that this initiative is generating in the community. She told the recipients of title deeds that they were not receiving a gift, they were receiving a title deed to a property that was rightfully theirs.

Dr Wiese said, “This initiative holds the promise of being absolutely transformative in the South African context. What makes this particularly exciting is that it is an initiative in which all South Africans can participate”.

Dr Simphiwe Madikizela, Managing Executive for Special Projects and Retail Sales at FNB Housing Finance, said, “FNB is proud of being the founding sponsor and partner with the FMF who conceived the land reform initiative through the registration of titles to the rightful owners in 2008. Even more exciting for us, is the leveraging effect of having more partners coming on board to ensure that this wonderful initiative is scaled up and accelerated. We hope that, in the future, we can all look back and point to the much needed economic transformation in terms of property development that the Ngwathe local municipality is witnessing today”.

Smaller and individual sponsors, including farmers, are making 190 title transfers possible. The cost of converting one property to freehold title is a modest R1 850. The transfer of Ngwathe’s municipal rental housing stock into the hands of former tenants could release an estimated R2 billion of much-needed capital into the local economy, which currently suffers a high level of poverty and unemployment.

The next handout of about 350 titles could take place as soon as July and bring the total property title conversions completed by the Khaya Lam project to approximately 700 - all at no cost to the individual recipients. A title deed is a profoundly powerful tool, a game changer for millions of this country’s poorest citizens. It can unlock dead capital into the hands of those who need it most and through them, into the economy.

The FMF is calling on all South Africans to consider joining our other sponsors in supporting this worthy cause. Together we can directly assist the people who have been denied home ownership for more than 100 years to own their homes. People such as Martha Olifant, Matroos Ratole and Julia Koloti. To become a sponsor of the Khaya Lam project click here

Author: Eustace Davie is a director of the Free Market Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the FMF.

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