This article is based on research funded by grants from The Wenner-Gren Foundation – Grant #7045, Fulbright-Hays’ Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program and Emory University's Fund for Internationalization. An early version of this paper was presented at the African Studies Association 2005 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. I am grateful to all those who read and commented on earlier drafts, in particular Don Donham, Derick Fay and Dan Mains, and to Henry Bernstein for his extensive advice in revising the paper for publication.
The Politics of Land Reform: Tenure and Political Authority in Rural Kwazulu-Natal
Article first published online: 20 DEC 2006
Journal of Agrarian Change
Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 99–120, January 2007
How to Cite
MATHIS, S. M. (2007), The Politics of Land Reform: Tenure and Political Authority in Rural Kwazulu-Natal. Journal of Agrarian Change, 7: 99–120. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0366.2007.00141.x
- Issue published online: 20 DEC 2006
- Article first published online: 20 DEC 2006
- land reform;
- land tenure;
- customary authority;
When South Africa's land reform programme finally reached rural Umbumbulu, a potential for conflict over land emerged unexpectedly. Strategically located near a major urban centre, residents of this region have long relied on wages and social welfare grants. Land was valued primarily for residential security and as a symbolic representation of community membership, rather than for productive purposes. This emphasis on community membership, however, created the potential for conflict when a local chief challenged a civil society group over their authority to claim land. With the government's continued hesitancy to challenge the authority of chiefs, land reform provided an opportunity for local chiefs to reinforce their position and potentially to expand the amount of land under their jurisdiction. This agenda conflicted both with the government's interest in developing commercial agriculture and local residents’ desire for rural land as security in the context of high levels of unemployment.