The Legacy of the 1913 Land Act: Much Ado About Nothing

This year marks the centenary of the 1913 Native Land Act which effectively ended black ownership of land in South Africa. Seventeen years after the Final Constitution was adopted which mandated and obligated the democratic State to turn the skewed patterns of resource ownership and access in South Africa around, disturbingly little has changed. Unsurprisingly, the discontent is starting to rip at the seams.
Rural development and the implementation of land reform laws should have been the priority of government in 2013. Regrettably, Parliament is about to consider two important pieces of legislation that could have addressed the legacy of the 1913 Native Land Act in a concerted manner – but won’t. The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill of 2012 and the draft Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill of 2012 both fail to deal with colonial and apartheid imposed spatial boundaries and 150 years of exploitation by mining interests.

What we need is an administration and a parliament that will rise to the occasion and involve the affected people in writing and implementing new laws that will arrest the afterlife of the 1913 land act and what went with it. New laws should recognise the tension of opposing development paradigms and the right of communities to determine their own development paths… which right is recognised by both the South African constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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