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Title: The strange case of the landed poor : land reform laws, traditional San culture, and the continued poverty of South Africa's ‡Khomani people
Author: Puckett, Robert Fleming
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 4729
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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The ‡Khomani San people received lands in 1999 under the ‘restitution’ arm of South Africa’s land reform programme. Restitution laws, contained in the Restitution of Land Rights Act and the Communal Property Associations (‘CPA’) Act, seek not only to return lands to peoples dispossessed after 1913, but also to inculcate the ideals of South Africa’s dominant agro-pastoral-based society into defined, cohesive land-recipient ‘communities’. These ideals include centralised, hierarchical, representative, democratic leadership and decision-making structures that the West takes for granted. However, these concepts of control are not typically found among foraging or post-foraging peoples, who tend to base their societies on decentralised, small-group, egalitarian social structures that strongly oppose hierarchies, representation, or accumulation. Such social organisation remains intact even after these groups become settled or adopt non-hunting-and-gathering livelihoods, and today’s ‡Khomani self-identify as San, ‘Bushmen’, hunters, and indigenous people, despite their settlement and their adoption of varied livelihood strategies, including stock-farming. Among such groups, externally imposed governance structures tend to be viewed as illegitimate, and instead of the cohesion and order these centrally legislated structures seek to create, they instead engender dissent, conflict, and non-compliance. The ‡Khomani, as both a formerly scattered group of apartheid-era labourers and a cultural group of San people, have struggled with little success to plan and implement ‘development’, infrastructure, and livelihood projects on their lands and have ‘failed’ to operate the Restitution and CPA Acts’ required ‘community’ land-ownership and decision-making structures successfully. Thus, restitution has failed to bring the socio-economic improvements that the new ‡Khomani lands seemed to promise. Since 2008, however, the government has temporarily taken governance and approval authority from the ‡Khomani, which has led to the creation of smaller, behind-the-scenes governing bodies, as the ‡Khomani have begun taking the reins of power in their own ways. Such bodies, including the ‡Khomani Farmers’ Association and the Bushman Raad, have begun achieving some successes on the ‡Khomani farms in part, it is argued, because they allow the ‡Khomani to reproduce the focused, non-hierarchical, small-group structures that are more suitable to them as a non-cohesive group and more culturally appropriate to them as San people. The South African government, with appropriate protections for abuse of power, should provide the space within land reform laws to allow land-recipient groups to make decisions, govern themselves, and manage their lands according to their own community realities and their own conceptions of leadership and social organisation.
Supervisor: Lemon, Anthony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography ; Africa ; Social anthropology ; Governance and ethics ; Indigenous peoples ; Human rights ; Political ideologies ; Evaluation of social policies,programmes and practice ; Ethnic minorities and ethnicity ; Poverty ; Rights (development) ; Governance in Africa ; Public policy