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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Burial sites, informal rights and lost kingdoms: contesting land claims in Mpumalanga, South Africa
Author:James, DeborahISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:land reform
land rights
land tenure
External links:https://doi.org/10.3366/E0001972009000709
Abstract:In the new South Africa, the promise of land restitution raised millennial-style expectations amongst dispossessed and dispersed former landholders. Partly prompted by emerging policy discourses, iconic tropes of localized cultural experience such as grave sites, initiation lodges and cattle byres acquired new significance. Because they proved what the Land Claims Commission calls 'informal rights' to land, they became verifiable evidence of effective possession, and thus grounds on which to claim the restoration of such land. The meaning of land, the nature of ownership and the legitimacy of its restoration were all matters contested between claimants, policymakers and human rights lawyers. They were also contested by those at different levels in the hierarchical social order of the new South Africa. Members of the African nationalist political elite, in dialogue with lawyers, cherished one set of understandings, while ordinary migrant/country-dwellers tended to hold to another. Both, however, were mediated through the new discourse on informal rights. It is neither purely through the activities of cosmopolitan elites with their 'political demand for land', nor through the unmediated localist experience of less sophisticated country-dwellers with more practical orientations, that the significance of land becomes evident, but in the interaction between the two. This article uses case studies of a number of claims in Mpumalanga Province, detailing the interaction of Land Claims Commission officers with the intended beneficiaries. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]