Accepted paper:

Continuing rural struggles to protect land-based livelihoods in the context of massive elite land grabbing in South Africa's former reserves: the case of Centane villages in the Eastern Cape


Fani Ncapayi (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

The livelihoods of rural residents in South Africa's former reserves are threatened by mining companies and agri-business who are grabbing productive land whilst promising economic development and food security. This reflects the unresolved land questions in rural areas of the former reserves.

Paper long abstract:

Rural residents in South Africa's former reserves are under siege from mining companies and agri-business who vie for access to productive lands in these areas. Although the land grabbing moves happen ostensibly to bring investments or to improve food production, the so called investments do not only cause divisions among the residents but also threaten the livelihoods of the residents. The land grabbing phenomenon is the source of current rural struggles by mining-affected rural communities in various parts of South Africa such as Xolobeni and Centane in Eastern Cape. The current rural land struggles also emanate from this phenomenon. The land grabbing phenomenon is in line with the de-agrarianisation thesis promoted by commentators, scholars and politicians. Broadly, the thesis argues that rural people are less inclined towards productive land use - but their interests are on land for housing and jobs in urban areas. Such an argument fuels allegations that rural land lies fallow and unproductive, hence the offers by agri-business to improve production on rural areas. However, the current rural struggles against the land grabs indicate the continued commitment of some rural residents to land-based livelihoods. Importantly, the developments and the ensuing rural struggles are reflective of the unresolved land questions almost 25 years into South Africa's democracy.

panel Econ12
The crisis of land in South Africa