Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Electing Land Questions: A Methodological Discussion with Reference to Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Durban Shackdweller Movement

by Raj Patel, 2007

Narratives about the land question in South Africa often have a similar structure. They will begin by observing that the distribution of land in South Africa is, by any measure, vastly unequal. There will often then be a suggestive statistic, one that notes the skew of land ownership, the 13 million people crowded onto the homelands (Lahiff 2001: 1), contrasted with 87% of being appropriated by white colonial farmers (Thwala 2003).This will often be accompanied by some gesture towards the colonial origins of thisdistribution, often pointing to 1913, the date of the South African Native Lands Act, a moment that consecrated the geography of apartheid. Some narratives will note, often critically, that in its post-apartheid hearings on the land reform process, the South African government’s key point of insistence was that the 1913 date for the beginning of consideration for restitution was non-negotiable despite the fact that a great deal of dispossession predates the Native Lands Act.

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