Day 1: The Political Economy of Land

Activity 2: The Political Economy of Land 

Day 1: The Political Economy of Land

Activity 2: The Political Economy of Land 

2 hours 30 minutes


To help us to:

  • Deepen our analysis of the political economy of land and of the historical context of land dispossession in the Eastern Cape
  • Use Fellows’ community mapping posters as a basis to explore the social and structural determinants of health (SSDoH) in relation to land
  • Learn more about how communities have organised around land, the challenges they face, the victories won and the threats to their health and lives.
  • Refine our understandings of land dispossession as a (SSDoH)
  • Use lenses of gender, race, class and other intersecting marginalisation to deepen our analysis of land dispossession and SSDOH

Task 1
Group work: creating a timeline of land dispossession

(1 hour 15 minutes)  

We will work in four groups for this task, to align with the four periods of history that we will study. Your group task is to produce a timeline of land dispossession and be ready to teach the other groups clearly and carefully about the period that you have covered.

One of our guest land experts will join your group as a resource person. Do draw on them to help with the analysis and shaping of your poster! You have 1 hour for the reading and design of the timeline poster and 10 minutes to present your group poster in plenary:

  • Read the short piece below on the period of history that you are assigned
  • Share out your reading of the additional 3 or 4 readings (see links) amongst group members, with each person responsible to take notes so that you can use the information to create the timeline
  • Create a poster to highlight the following six angles of land dispossession:   
    1. The historical context of each land dispossession phase
    2. The struggles of this period for these communities
    3. Land as a structural barrier for equity
    4. Likely impacts on health
    5. A race, class and gender lens
    6. Any additional interesting facts or information encountered

Be sure to give your poster a heading with the title and period that you are covering.

Task 2:
Plenary: Reviewing the timeline of land dispossession

1 hour 15 minutes

The set of timeline posters will be put onto the walls in the sequence of the historical periods. Our land experts will co-facilitate a gallery walk and a teach-in by each group of the different period groups. Each group will get a maximum of 10 minutes for their presentation, including additions by the land expert facilitators. The land experts will add to the timeline and close gaps where possible (adding cards to the timeline). There will be time for questions of clarity before moving to the next period presentation.

We will then have around 30 minutes in plenary to consider the picture that we have at this point of the SSDoH in relation to land in South Africa. We will also do a walk past our Community Profile Posters finalised and discussed on Sunday, to consider how they speak to today’s posters and vice versa.


The Violent Conquest 1652 – 1912

Large numbers of Boer farmers, catering for the Dutch East India Company’s post at the Cape of Good Hope, began arriving in 1652 displacing the Khoikhoi nomadic people from their cattle grazing areas at the foot of Table Mountain and disrupting the hunter-gathering lifestyles of the San. The Dutch settlers, using horse-mounted attacks and firearms, easily ousted the Khoisan from the lands they had previously inhabited. The British settlers brought their own styles of violence and also expanded eastwards and north. 

These colonies expanded eastwards seeking to gain control of the valuable farming land and lush forested ravines found in abundance on the Eastern Cape. Here, they ran into the expanding Xhosa Kingdom, and as both cultures relied heavily on agriculture and cattle farming in particular, skirmishes and cattle raiding became endemic on both sides. This era marked with violence, with arms and artillery shipped from Europe to rid communities of their land and subsequent lifestyle. 



Law, Legislation, Governance and Dispossession 1913 – 1947

The dispossession of land through the 1913 Natives Land Act was apartheid’s original sin. But in-fact land dispossession goes back more than a century to the 1913 Natives Land Act, which provided legislative form to a process of dispossession that had been under way since colonial times.

Henceforth today, if you travel across the vast expanse of South Africa, what you see is immediately struck by the great variations in its landscape and the differing contexts and conditions under which black poor people live. The picture of South Africa in the hinterland of the former Transkei, Natal and Limpopo where there is still attachment to the soil, differs greatly from that of the Free State and the Cape countryside where, to a large extent, rural people make a living as farm workers on commercial farms. These in turn are very different from the coastal areas where subsistence fishers face a daily battle for survival. 

Despite these differences however, there are many commonalities. The first is the abject poverty and underdevelopment, the daily battle for survival that confronts the rural poor. But there are other similarities too. There are for example few, if any, places in the country where Black rural people are able to sustain themselves off the land alone. In fact, in many of our rural villages, people have lost all contact with the soil, subsisting almost completely from social grants and urban remittances. These peculiarities can only be understood by going back to the past – to the history of land dispossession and the manner in which European settlers accumulated capital and laid the foundations for their own well-being at the expense of the indigenous people using laws and other oppressive tools.



Apartheid and Land Dispossession 1948 – 1993 

Apartheid from the Afrikaans language which means apartness, apartheid was the ideology supported by the National Party government and was introduced in South Africa in 1948. Apartheid called for the separate development of the different racial groups in South Africa. On paper it appeared to call for equal development and freedom of cultural expression, but the way it was implemented made this impossible. Apartheid made laws forced the different racial groups to live separately and develop separately, and grossly unequally too. It tried to stop all inter-marriage and social integration between racial groups. 

It was during apartheid where to have a friendship with someone of a different race generally brought suspicion upon you, or worse. More than this, apartheid was a social system which severely disadvantaged the majority of the population, simply because they did not share the skin colour of the rulers. Many were kept just above destitution because they were ‘non-white’.



Post-Apartheid South Africa and Land Dispossession 1994 to today

After the collapse and dismantling of Apartheid, legislation revoking laws that dispossessed people were passed and new ones were enacted. The newly elected government set in motion a process that allowed people who lost their land after 1913 to lodge claims for restitution. This was revised in January 2013 when the ANC pledged to permit land claims to the period predating 1913. Despite efforts to address the land issue, the legacy of land dispossession remains visible on the South African socio-political landscape.

When the apartheid ended in South Africa and the ANC was elected post-apartheid issues became apparent. This thesis focuses on the issues around housing from the perspective of inequality, integration and location. A discourse and implication analysis are made of two policies. This gives insight in the meaning policies has for society. First an historical overview is given of spatial segregation acts based on races in the period 1910 until 1990. After that relevant post-apartheid issues regarding the housing question are laid down and post-apartheid population movements analysed. After that the discourse of the policies ‘Redistribution and Development Programme’ (RDP), and the ‘White Paper on housing’ are analysed. The policy ‘Breaking New Ground’ (BNG) is shortly looked into as amendment of the RDP. This is followed by an assessment of the policies with my own and scholars’ interpretation. It becomes clear that inequality is the overall denominator of issues post-apartheid and also has a great influence on the proposed policies. Without more equity, the diminishing of poverty and housing schemes cannot succeed. In the equity issue the location, and especially access to employment and other facilities, plays a great role. Inequality is partly continued by the market-oriented approach of the RDP and the White Paper.