Rhodes University Logo
Rhodes > Latest News > 2013

The Promise of Land

Date Released: Mon, 2 September 2013 11:59 +0200

In an effort to address the ensuing land crisis in South Africa, The Promise of Land: Undoing a Century of Dispossession in South Africa, explores the many dimensions of the crisis with the aim of encouraging meaningful debates on alternative approaches.

According to authors Prof Fred Hendricks, Dean of Humanities at Rhodes University, Prof Kirk Helliker, Head of the Department of Sociology at Rhodes University, and Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza, Director and Holder of the AC Jordan Chair in African Studies and the NRF Research Chair in Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa at the Centre for African Studies, the starting point for this book is that current land reform policies in the country fail to take the colonial context of division and exclusion into account. In analysing urban, commercial farming and communal areas the book argues for a fundamental change in approach to move beyond the impasse in both policy and conceptualising of land.

Arguing that the transition to democracy in 1994 has not translated into a meaningful process of decolonisation in South Africa, the book suggests that the very structures of colonialism and apartheid remain intact, since racial inequalities in both access to, and ownership of land continue today. With state-driven attempts at land reform having failed to meet even their own targets, a fundamental change in approach is necessary for South Africa to move beyond the deadlock that prevails between the objectives of the policy and the means for realising them.

According to the authors, social movements have a critical role to play in initiating the necessary changes, both in respect of access to land and in influencing broader policy options. Struggles from below are crucial for rethinking purely statist efforts at land reform and the book grapples with the interplay between oppositional campaigns of social movements and the state’s policies and responses. According to Prof Hendricks, the book flows out of a SANPAD funded research project and was launched at a June conference of social movements in Cape Town, ‘Land, Race and Nation’.

Prof Fred Hendricks holds a PhD in Sociology from Uppsala University, Sweden. His research interests include land and agrarian questions, and pensions and development.

Prof Kirk Helliker has a PhD in Sociology from Rhodes University. His research interests include agrarian reform, civil theory, theories of emancipation, and Zimbabwe.

Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza has a PhD from Rhodes University. His research interests include the role of traditional authorities in democracy.