A Promise Betrayed: Policies and Practice Renew the Rural Dispossession of Land, Rights and Prospects

Image: Flickr, Christopher Griner
Image: Flickr, Christopher Griner

South Africans assumed on 27 April 1994 that their vote for freedom would erase the ethnic enclaves known as ‘Bantustans’ or ‘homelands’ and guarantee a common citizenship with equal rights under one law.

Officially, the 10 homelands were dismantled under the interim constitution that introduced democracy in 1994, paving the way for the reversal of the dispossession that had been entrenched by the 1913 and 1936 land acts. Instead, 20 years later, a series of laws, bills and policies proposes a separate legal regime for people within the boundaries of those former Bantustans. A version of ‘customary law’ that defaults to the tribal boundaries and ascribed identities of the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 is used to justify continued segregation and unequal citizenship. The effect is to consolidate the unilateral authority of chiefs in relation to land ownership and to deny other rural South Africans the right to decide for themselves how to use and share the newly discovered mineral wealth of the land they have owned and occupied for centuries.

10 Feb 2015

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Research by
SAIIA Policy Briefing No 124, January 2015
Sub-Saharan Africa
South Africa
SAIIA Programme
Governance of Africa’s Resources
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