South African rural communities and the land restitution process: The application of criminological and legal theories in identifying obstacles to rightful allocations of land

  • R.J. Mokwena
  • W. Maluleke
Keywords: Criminology, Land restitution, Legality, Rural communities, South Africa


Post-apartheid administrations in South Africa are currently dealing with multifaceted poverty and social inequalities – the legacy of apartheid politics. The Restitution of Land Rights Act (No. 22 of 1994) was passed to offer restitution to people who had lost their land as a result of racially discriminatory practices such as forced removals. Between 2014 and 2016 conflicts emerged regarding the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act (No. 15 of 2014) in terms of the finalisation and processing of land claims. The settlement of land claims in South Africa remains beset with problems, with corrupt practices on the part of traditional leaders remaining rife. This article considers the existing legislative frameworks through the lens of criminological and legal theories, namely differential association theory, Legal Justice Theory and Routine Activities Theory (RAT), in the hope of enhancing transparency regarding land claims processes as administered by traditional leaders. The study made use of a non-empirical research design, specifically a systematic review. The backlog of unprocessed land claims was found to be enormous, with constraints in government funding, the persistence of landlessness, the poverty of rural communities and ambiguity in land reform policies being identified as contributing factors. The researchers conclude that the selected criminological and legal theories have a significant role to play in the rightful allocation of land among South African rural communities, provided that traditional leaders cease to act as colonial agents in the land restitution process.

Keywords: Criminology, Land restitution, Legality, Rural communities, South Africa


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eISSN: 1596-9231