Visions of justice and unequal realities: A study of the prioritization of land claimants in the South African Land Restitution Program
Abstract: South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The issue of land ownership highlights racial and economic inequalities as the country fights to overcome the enduring legacy of apartheid. The Land Restitution Program seeks to redress victims of land dispossession, addressing both national development and individual justice. This paper investigates the prioritization of the processing of land claims from 2014 to 2019 by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights through the program of Land Restitution. This is done through a qualitative content analysis, mixed with quantitative performance data. I argue that the changes in prioritization of program beneficiaries are mirrored by shifting theoretical standpoints, from rights, justice, and moral identity-based arguments, to utilitarian and instrumental development informed perspectives that seek to use land restitution as an instrument for wider agricultural and economic transformation. I argue that this affects the de jure and de facto prioritization of land claims, and by proxy the people that lodge them; seeking to engage in the complexities of tribal and community claims in rural areas through the restoration of land, but de facto preferring individual claims that result in financial compensation.
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