University of Sussex
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Land reform, space and power in Makhado municipality, Limpopo, South Africa

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:10 authored by Stephen John Greenberg
This thesis explores the role of land reform in the production of space and relations of power in rural South Africa after 1994, based on a case study of a cluster of restitution farms in Makhado municipality in Limpopo province in northern South Africa. It uses Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space, which proposes that space is a dynamic social construction and that spatial and social – and hence power - relations are mutually constitutive. Land reform processes are considered using three components of the production of space identified by Lefebvre, namely the material, the conceptual and the lived. These components are applied to three core themes in land reform which emerged from the research: authority and land governance; property relations; and land use (production and settlement). The investigation was based primarily on interviews with inhabitants in the research area affected by land reform, with individuals with some historical knowledge of the area, and with various individuals from government and other support organisations with some relation to land reform in the area. The methods included an element of participant observation and some archival research. The research indicates that land reform had an uneven impact on the production of space and power relations in the area of study. Contradictions emanating from within the state in particular exacerbated this unevenness. The retention of the private property framework and the entrenchment of pre-existing forms of authority and relations of power – private landowners and traditional authorities – constituted limitations on the role land reform could play in altering rural spaces and power relations. However, land reform simultaneously facilitated openings for subterranean shifts through new practices, rooted in everyday activities at the micro-spatial level, which signalled potential broader shifts in spatial and power relations over time.


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