Dr Franklin Obeng-Odoom, Associate Professor in the Discipline of Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki has recently reviewed a new book by one of South Africa's leading legal minds and land analysts Tembeka Ngcukaitobi . His review of Land Mattters: South Africa's Failed Land Reforms and the Road Ahead appears in the LSE Review of Books.
According to Obeng-Odoom Land Matters is outstanding. Some extracts from his review appear below.
Three of its features are particularly distinctive. The book’s palette of rich statistics that shows the shocking landed inequalities in South Africa leads the way. The book’s engaging analysis of the age-old question about compulsory acquisition of land with or without compensation complements the picture. Showing how institutions shape society, how societies shape institutions and in what ways the land question contributes to explaining persistent inequalities and social stratification in South Africa cements the book’s position as an authoritative account of South Africa’s land economy.
Chapter Five offers three significant insights about ‘chiefly power’. Distortion of the nature of chiefly power was a common tactic by colonisers. For instance, chiefly power was reduced, such as by subordinating chiefs to colonial authority and colonial institutions like the courts. Simultaneously chiefly power was expanded to enable chiefs to exercise powers they hitherto did not wield over land, women and communities. In addition, new chieftaincies were created to serve the needs of the colonisers. These distorted ideas of chiefly power have been exported to the modern constitution of South Africa.
Land reform is successful if it corrects past wrongs, confronts present inequalities and constructs an inclusive future. South African land reform has failed to meet these tests.
This book carefully shows not just why but also how land matters. Both in creating and constructing the present problems of South Africa, land has been central to its story. As the book shows, land will also be vital in solving these problems. Combining an excellent exposition of land law, historical research and social science investigations, Land Matters casts the problems and prospects of South Africa in a new light.
For those in search of a fine grained understanding of the complex and unresolved land question in South Africa this book provides a valuable foundation