Response Papers

Institutions and governance of communal rangelands in South Africa

DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2013.776634
Author(s): JamesE BennettDepartment of Geography, Environment and Disaster Management and Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, UK

Abstract

The creation of local institutions with a mandate over land access and control is seen as a prerequisite for successful decentralisation of land tenure and effective local resource management in sub-Saharan Africa. However, with land tenure reform in South Africa currently at a state of legislative impasse, real uncertainty now exists over land rights and governance of rangeland in many communal areas. This paper draws on case study material from Eastern Cape province to illustrate how this ongoing uncertainty has resulted in the operation of a range of traditional authority and civil society institutions in different communal areas with varying degrees of legitimate authority over land administration and highly variable performance in managing rangeland resources. Collective management of rangeland resources seems most difficult in environments where land rights are contested because of the coexistence of traditional leaders and civil society institutions. On this basis an approach to tenure reform is advocated, which vests all powers over local land administration in democratically elected and accountable civil society institutions. Some successful examples of this already exist and might serve to guide policy formation, which must be flexible enough to accommodate collective management approaches that emphasise cooperation both within and between communities.

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