A study of land restitution to rural communities in South Africa: An analysis of traditional leaders perceptives

  • RJ Mokwena
  • L.L. Motsepe
  • W. Maluleke
  • S.N. Shandu
Keywords: Rural communities, Traditional leaders, Culture, Ethnicity, Race, Tribe


After the dismantling of apartheid, the democratic government nevertheless retained a number of institutions, systems and structures giving rise to inequalities in rural communities. Practices within rural communities include residing in tribal and ethnical groups, with traditional leaders as the custodians of the land restored to communities as part of the restitution process. Both agricultural and residential land has been subject to the authority of traditional leadership, being allocated according to traditional, cultural and ethnic background. In 1984, prior to the advent of democracy in South Africa, Parliament was divided into three houses along racial lines, with Whites, coloureds and Indians represented. Blacks were excluded in terms of this parliamentary structure, with traditional leaders given the power to determine the structure of rural communities. The aim of this article is to shed light on tribalism in rural communities with the purpose of encouraging the equal and equitable legal restitution of land to all rural communities. The land under the custodianship of traditional leaders should be allocated fairly, irrespective of the race, tribe, colour, culture and ethnicity of the recipients, yet traditional leaders allocate land on the basis of four main criteria, namely: race, tribe, culture and ethnicity, and they have in consequence been the overseers of undemocratic land restitution amongst rural communities in South Africa. Although South Africa is more than 25 years into democracy, the traditional leaders continue to implement old regime principles, and this delays the land restitution process further. The government continues to hesitate with regard to taking control of land, and this causes frustration within rural communities and further divides the country along racial and ethnic lines. For the purpose of this article, qualitative non-empirical research design, following the application of systematic review, whereby purposively analysis of relevant literature restricted to 25 years’ projection as a means to understand the delay in land restitution in South Africa and the contribution of traditional leaders to this delay. The Thematic Content Analysis (TCA) was used for analysis.

Keywords: Rural communities, Traditional leaders, Culture, Ethnicity, Race, Tribe


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eISSN: 1596-9231