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Accepted Paper:

The re-opening of land restitution, neo-traditionalism and the contested values of land justice in South Africa  
Olaf Zenker (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the shifting values of the land justice to be achieved through South African restitution, focussing not only on land’s productive value but also on its “distributive value” (James Ferguson) that might become the more relevant future of nature in South Africa and beyond.

Paper long abstract:

South African land restitution redresses past race-based land dispossessions. Originally, land claims had to be lodged until the end of 1998, producing about 80'000 claims of which 20'000 claims still await finalisation. Recently, however, the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act (2014) re-opened the lodgement of new land claims until mid-2019, ostensibly in order to do justice to those "rightful claimants" left out in the first round. President Zuma has repeatedly encouraged "traditional authorities" to now claim vast stretches of land in order to make for a second coming of their kingdoms of "custom". This is in line with a marked government shift towards neo-traditionalist policies since the late 1990s: while original restitution law clearly emphasised individual rights of "citizens" even in communal claims (restored land was to be held by a democratically constituted legal body), recent neo-traditionalist statutory laws have shifted the control over land to re-empowered chiefs and away from their newly constituted "subjects". This paper explores the shifting values that have been associated with the land justice to be achieved through restitution. While acknowledging the importance of land as a productive value, thus far dominating the academic and public debates in South Africa, it broadens the focus in order to interrogate this neo-traditionalist shift also with regard to its consequences for seemingly "non-productive" networks of belonging, relatedness and co-residence. These might massively shape the specific "distributive value" of land that, as James Ferguson suggests, might become the more relevant future of nature in South Africa and beyond.

Panel P073
Indelible footprints and unstable futures: anthropology and resource politics
  Session 1