As clearly demonstrated by the other contributions to this volume, the ‘land question’ continues to be a major political, economic and social issue within virtually all the countries of southern Africa and, in recent years, has become a priority for the formal structures of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well. At the outset, however, it should be said that no single ‘land question’ can capture the wide range of conditions prevailing in the region, but rather a set of interconnected questions with strong regional commonalities but also distinct national and local characteristics. Central to these questions are the shared history of colonialism and widespread

dispossession of indigenous populations, as well as the continuing centrality of agriculture and other land-based livelihoods to the economy of the region. Tanzania, for example, depends on agriculture for 42.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 per cent of employment, among the highest rates in the world; at the other end of the regional spectrum, South Africa depends on agriculture for just 3.2 per cent of its GDP and 10.3 per cent of its employment.1 The racial imbalance in landholding that has persisted long after the formal ending of settler-colonialism in countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, and attempts to address it, have been the most prominent expression of the land question in the region. Other key questions persist, however, even in those countries where farmers of settler origin are no longer a significant presence. These include the question of how to broaden access to land in the context of growing populations and enduring poverty (heavily concentrated in the rural areas). Also, how to balance the drive for a modern, export-oriented and efficient agricultural sector that contributes to macro-economic development with the livelihood and food security needs of the rural population, especially smallholders. Finding the appropriate balance between private enterprise and State intervention and support especially in the eras of structural adjustment and neo-liberalism, presents particular challenges for the region. And finally, how to deal with the millions of households being squeezed out of the agricultural economy and facing an uncertain future in urban and peri-urban areas – what Bernstein (2002) has aptly termed ‘the agrarian question of labour’.