Perspectives on Urban Land Restitution: what constitutes good enough?

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The amendment of the Restitution of Land Rights Act (no. 2 of 1996) has reopened the period for lodging a land claim in South Africa until 2019. The previous period for lodging a claim closed in 1998 but claims lodged over 20 years have still not been attended to. There exists a concern that with the re-opening of land restitution within both rural and urban spaces, that previous claims will not be seen to, while new claims will take years to resolve. This is unacceptable. How can the process of land restitution be better managed, conducted and performed so as to fulfil the requirements and goals of land restitution –reconciliation and social justice. The focus of this research turns to the urban space in the Western Cape through a purposefully selected case study of a successful land claim. South African cities and human settlements are growing, with South Africa being the most urbanised country in Africa. The competition for urban space will increase in time. With the demand for land being the contextual reality, urban land restitution needs to position itself in relation to South Africa’s dispossessing past. Through a qualitative research approach, a single case study of urban land restitution was used through which to answer the research questions: what constitutes good enough in relation to land restitution in a competitive urban environment? Findings revealed that urban land restitution is complex, with multiple layers, multiple actors and multiple challenges. It exists in a fine balance of factors influenced by competing agendas. Good enough in this space covers communication, recognition of individuals, respect and action. It entails a three dimensional process and accounts for change in people, place and space over time. Recommendations relating to these findings are themselves pitched at multiple levels from the national to the city space and at more general concerns. Recommendations attempt to promote good enough in a complex urban land restitution environment for the future.

Includes bibliographical references.