Rural despotism in democratic South Africa 
Fred Hendricks (Rhodes University)
Lungisile Ntsebeza (University of Cape Town)
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Start time:
29 June, 2017 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
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Short Abstract:

This Panel addresses the persistence of reserves in contemporary SA by exploring the roles of traditional authorities and the migrant labour system in the urban-rural nexus. Its cases include:the Marikana massacre, the recent attempt to impose chiefs in Cala and the conflict over mining in Pondoland

Long Abstract

This panel problematizes the connection between land, labour, gender and traditional authorities by highlighting the enduring rural and urban dualities in the lives of South Africans. Labour in the South differs fundamentally with the North in one crucial aspect - many workers retain access to land. While this access is clearly shrinking, even the semblance of access, as in South African reserves, profoundly shapes the nature of citizenship, gender relations, the process of proletarianisation and the prospects for livelihoods revealing the interconnectedness between land and labour. The distorted version of the communal land tenure system in the reserves buttressed by a corrupted chieftaincy were two of the critical pillars of apartheid. Not only do they remain intact in democratic South Africa, they have been reinforced and shored up to create a situation of extreme vulnerability, persistent unevenness and deepening inequality. While contemporary South Africa has a new geographic dispensation in the form of nine provinces, the reserves have not been dismantled. Instead, they remain differentiated from the rest of the country by a distinctive forms of land tenure and local government. In order to understand why migrant labour has persisted in democratic South Africa, it is crucial to appreciate the enduring role of reserves in the political economy of the country as they are deeply implicated in inhibiting the democratic rights of reserve residents by their subjection to traditional authorities while they continue to contribute to cheapening labour power and undermining the rights of women.

Accepted papers: