Land, Power, and Custom — 2009

Controversies Generated by South Africa’s Communal Land Rights Act

Edited by Aninka Claassens and Ben Cousins

Land, Power & Custom brings together a rich combination of critical reflection and historical and ethnographic evidence to elucidate the challenges of securing land rights in post-apartheid South Africa. The authors … make clear the relevance of South Africa’s experiments and dilemmas for land rights reform in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.”

Sara Berry — Johns Hopkins University

“(Land, Power, and Custom) is a rich source of material for the South African public, for legal and anthropological scholars, and for all those concerned with debates going on apace, seemingly all over Africa.”

African Studies Review

“The value of Claassens and Cousins' book is that the reader gets to grips with the flimsy and insecure nature of land entitlements for residents in former Homelands and the impression is left, which is disturbing, that South Africa remains an apartheid society.”

Journal of Southern African History

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Land tenure rights are a burning issue in South Africa, as in Africa more widely. Land, Power, and Custom explores the implications of the controversial 2004 Communal Land Rights Act, criticized for reinforcing the apartheid power structure and ignoring the interests of the common people. This compilation of essays and case studies written by experts navigates through competing viewpoints to discuss the tensions between the new democratic government and traditional tribal leaders, the land rights of affected yet isolated or marginalized groups, and concerns about the constitutionality of the CLRA itself.

A DVD accompanying the book contains the affidavits of four communities challenging the Act, pleadings, hearings, and submissions, as well as the entire body of South African legislation involved in this challenge, dating back to the late nineteenth century.


Aninka Claassens is a land rights activist and researcher and writer on land rights and customary tenure.


Ben Cousins holds a chair in development management at the University of the Western Cape, and is director of the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLASS).

Cover of 'Land, Power, and Custom'

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Paperback978-0-8214-1873-4

408 pages · 6 × 9 in. · Copublished with UCT Press

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Paperback: (exclusive in Americas, Continental Europe, Pacific Rim, and United Kingdom)

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