Act 9 Rural Areas

There are 23 rural areas in four provinces (Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State) where land historically reserved for people of mixed Khoisan and European descent is held in trust by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform. Residents in these areas do not hold title deeds to their residential plots.

How these areas came into being

The majority of these rural areas originated in mission-linked settlements. The Mission Stations and Communal Reserves Act (No. 29 of 1909) of the Cape Colony first brought a number of mission stations and independent reserves under statutory control. Management Boards or Rade were established and chaired by the local magistrate. Selected government officials and local residents were appointed to sit on the board. In several areas there was popular resistance to these boards which were regarded as being unrepresentative.

The 1909 Act was replaced by the Coloured Persons Communal Reserves Act (No. 3 of 1961). This Act drew on definitions in the 1950 Population Registration Act which classified people into “White”, “Native” (members of indigenous African groups) and “Coloured” who the Act defined as “not a white person or a native” (Wisbourg, P. 2006). Finally the Rural Areas Act (No. 9 of 1987) was passed by the House of Representatives in the tricameral parliament established in the dying days of apartheid.

Location of the Act 9 areas

The largest of the Act 9 or so called “coloured rural areas” areas are in the Northern Cape where there are six such areas. There are twelve areas in the Western Cape, one in the Eastern Cape, and in the Free State there are two. Further information about the Act 9 areas is available here

Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act

The drafting of TRANCRAA

Act 9 was replaced by the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (No. 94 of 1998) — TRANCRAA. Representatives from the various communities from the Act 9 areas played an active role in the shaping of this Act, supported by the Surplus People Project – a land sector NGO and a dedicated task team. The drive to influence the new law arose from local struggles in the 1980s to resist attempts by the state to privatise communal rangelands in the Northern Cape, determine economic units and allocate land to larger larger “bona fide livestock farmers”.

Rights holders in these areas sought to protect themselves from state assisted capture by compliant elites.

The underlying premises of the TRANCRAA are that the historical and current use rights of people living in these areas must be respected, and that land governance should be democratic and non-discriminatory. – (Smith, H. et al. 2016) 

Key provisions of the Act

TRANCRAA enables land to be transferred to municipalities, or to a land-holding entity like a Communal Property Association controlled by the members. The Act sets out processes which must be followed to clarify and establish the different land rights of recognised members of these communities.

The Act requires a land rights inquiry into:

  • existing rights of land users;
  • existing rights of residents;
  • current limitations on security of tenure and the definition of tenure rights;
  • their particular land reform needs and expectations.

This enquiry process involves:

  • confirmation of the land rights holders;
  • the identification and resolution of any land related disputes;
  • development of an overall land use and tenure management plan;
  • agreement about how the land will be held:
    • either by the local municipality
    • or by a land holding entity representing the verified land rights holders.

TRANCRAA and mineral rights

Originally TRANCRAA sought to ensure that rights holders would benefit from minerals found on their land. However this right was extinguished by the passing of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (No. 28 of 2002) (Smith, H. et al. 2016).

Photo: Louis Reynolds. 1996. Trekboere Richtersveld. (CC-BY-NC)

Implementing TRANCRAA

Although the Act was passed in 1998, the transformation process is far from complete. TRANCRAA was given high priority under the first Minister of Land Affairs but was sidelined by subsequent Ministers.

Frustrated with the slow pace of progress, TRANCRAA communities called for a summit with the Minister, which took place in 2012. This resulted in a reconstituted task team, but the team was reportedly ineffective in its work and there were calls at the National Land Summit in 2014 for the process to be reconstituted yet again.

Only in Mamre has land has actually been transferred to a CPA. Currently there is no indication of funds being allocated for the implementation of TRANCRAA in the DRDLR budget.

If tenure and land reform are at a crossroads in the Coloured rural areas, then it is largely because of the uneven, partial and even unsympathetic treatment that they are getting… from the bureaucrats at all levels of government. Henk Smith, Wilmien Wicomb and Nasreen Solomons (2016).

Current TRANCRAA demands

In 2018, TRANCRAA communities represented at a national workshop convened by the Alliance for Rural Democracy, made a number of demands, including:

  • removal of administrative bottlenecks and immediate implementation of TRANCRAA in all 23 legislated areas, utilising local participatory planning and drawing on local expertise;
  • amendment of Section 2 of TRANCRAA to protect community land rights;
  • approval of adequate budget and allocation of state capacity for the fast track transfer and development of TRANCRAA land;
  • a programme of local economic development, including secure water rights to stimulate livelihood and employment opportunities.
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A project of Phuhlisani NPC supported by Absa. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. International License.