The Promise of Land, The Hope of Home: Farm Dweller Livelihoods, Land Tenancy and Justice in uMgungundlovu, South Africa

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Amity Doolittle
Essay Abstract: 
Although there exist several laws to protect the tenure and wellbeing of farm dwellers, these rural residents still face enormous challenges on farms in South Africa. Farm dwellers are routinely evicted, deprived of access to basic services like water and electricity, and separated from important cultural symbols like cattle and gravesites. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has neglected its duty to protect farm dwellers and to hold white landowners accountable for human rights violations. The case study of uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu Natal reveals the injustice farm dwellers experience and uncovers the legacies of apartheid that remain in these landscapes. In reaction to this oppression, farm dwellers often submit land claims in order to acquire ownership over the land they live on. The land transferral mechanism of willing buyer, willing seller has slowed down this process drastically, leaving some farm dwellers landless years after submitting their applications. As an alternative, the system of land expropriation without compensation could be particularly useful for land tenure cases because it acknowledges the history of displacement and violence in South Africa, and perceives land as both an economic asset and as part of the lived identity of black people. Farms continue to be sites of injustice and, thus, in order for South Africa to confront its past and heal its wounds, the nation must address the oppression of farm dwellers in a meaningful way.