South African land matters today emanate from the past racially based land dispossession of black communities, which furthered white settler capitalism. Post-apartheid regimes have developed many policies to reverse this legacy, but with little effect. Political parties have blamed the Constitution for the slow pace of land reform, arguing for the need to amend it to clarify ‘expropriation without compensation’. Based on a broad literature review, this article suggests some political, economic and social lessons for South Africa’s land reform. It aims to understand how other countries have dealt with land acquisition for land reform and urban housing development projects, the post-acquisition stage and the reasons for failure and success of some land reforms. This article calls for an alignment of land stakeholders, inclusion of urban land in land reform policies and increasing the powers of provincial officers to improve support for beneficiaries and the subdivision of large farms.