Working Paper 151

White Claimants and the Moral Community of South African Land Restitution

Olaf Zenker

Max Planck Fellow Group LOST (2005-2011)

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 151

South African land restitution, by way of which the post-apartheid state compensates victims of racial land dispossession, has been intimately linked to former homelands: prototypical rural claims are those of communities that lost their rights in land when being forcibly relocated to reserves and they now aspire to return to their former lands and homes from their despised ‘homelands’. However, white farmers, who were also dispossessed (although usually compensated) by the apartheid state in the latter’s endeavour to consolidate existing homelands, have lodged restitution claims as well. While the Land Claims Court has principally admitted such restitution claims and ruled upon the merits of individual cases, state bureaucrats, legal activists, as well as other members of the public have categorically questioned and challenged such claims to land rights by whites. Focussing on white land claimaints effected by the establishment of former KwaNdebele, this paper investigates the contested field of moral entitlements emerging from divergent discourses about the true victims and beneficiaries of apartheid. It pays particular attention to land claims pertaining to the western frontier of KwaNdebele – the wider Rust de Winter area, which used to be white farmland expropriated in the mid-1980s for consolidation (that never occurred) and currently vegetates as largely neglected no-man’s-(state-)land under multiple land claims. Being the point of reference for state officials, former white farmers, Ndebele traditionalists, local residents, and other citizens, this homeland frontier is hence analysed as a fateful zone of contestation, in which the terms of a new South African moral community are negotiated.

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