What we will provide

KB:L content will be rolled out in three phases. Check back regularly to see our progress and discover new content.

Phase 1 of Knowledgebase.land

The following pages from part of Phase 1 of KB.L’s development.


KB.L has a team of researchers gathering and collating land related content from the web to stream a constantly updated selection of land news. Essential metadata is captured, coded and categorised. If you are looking for news and views on land related issues you will find a selection of links to the most substantive articles, organised into 15 categories to make things easy to find.

Explore the news


The Constitution

The Bill of Rights in the Constitution provides the foundational guarantees for property and land rights. Section 25 — the so-called “property clause” — requires the state to take reasonable legislative and other measures to remedy the impacts of past racially discriminatory laws and practices which dispossessed people of their land and houses and rendered their rights in land insecure.

KB.L provides a clear explanation of the different clauses in Section 25 and how they are given effect through laws of general application. This will link to our land law section which provides overviews of essential legislation.

Explore the Constitution


The Landscape

KB.L provides a tour of the entire land reform landscape. We explore how the different rural and urban land settings are connected.

We examine:

  • the issues facing people who live on farms, work as farm workers or labour tenants, and who live in former “Coloured rural areas”;
  • the land and tenure rights of 17 million people who live in the former “bantustans” across South Africa where traditional authorities are recognised;
  • the issues and challenges facing those who have accessed land through the restitution and redistribution programmes;
  • the struggles of the urban landless — people living in informal settlements, hostels and the inner city.

Explore the Landscape


Land debates – coming soon

In addition to having links to selected news and opinion pieces on the website, a free emailed hyperlinked digest of key developments in the land sector will be available.

Research links – coming soon

We profile research institutes specialising in rural and urban land issues. Over time we plan to upload and update biographies of rural and urban land researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds. We will also provide links to a wide range of research studies covering different aspects of the land question, and to relevant Masters and Doctoral theses downloadable from university repositories.

Land directory – coming soon

We will maintain a directory of the major state and non-state actors and networks active in the land sector. Find out who’s who and what they do.

Phase 1

Land news
Quality checked rural and urban land related news coded and categorised
The Constitution
Providing expert interpretation of the different rights contained in Section 25 - the Property clause of the South African Constitution
The Landscape
A guided tour of all different rural and urban setting which make up the land reform landscape
Land Debate
Rolling summaries of key debates. Links to op eds and article featuring different perspectives
Research links
a curated collection of links to research papers and policy briefs from leading local and international research institutes
Land directory
Who's who in the land sector: Social movements NGOs, Research institutes, government, key rural and urban actors - labour, business, industry and more

Phase 2 of Knowledgebase.land

Phase 2 of KB.L envisages the provision of more in-depth resources.

Contested histories

We cast fresh eyes over the history of land and dispossession in South Africa. We start from the position that the past shapes the present.

“But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present…”

Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Where land is concerned, the past significantly influences our collective future. Yet, despite its importance, the history of land in South Africa remains poorly understood and is frequently reduced to single stories which oversimplify complex and messy realities.

The dominant narrative around land is one of colonial conquest, indigenous struggles of resistance, loss and displacement culminating in the seizure of land and livestock. This story is made up of many episodes, starting in 1652. The story usually opens with accounts of colonial conquest and resistance triggered by the arrival of the Dutch and followed by British settlers in 1820. This story usually skips over interpretations of the causes and consequences of the mfecane.

The story tells of how a combination of force, trickery, taxation, treaties, the imposition of Roman-Dutch property law and the surveying of farms introduced a system of private property and land titling which ignored indigenous social orders and rights in land. Increasing limitations on access to land undermined local economies and livelihoods, forcing African people to become migrant wage workers, and transformed people making a living from their land into sharecroppers, labour tenants and finally farmworkers.

The story recounts the discovery of diamonds and gold; the consequent demand for labour and the simultaneous growth of capitalist agriculture. State subsidies and support boosted emergent white farmers and made it increasingly difficult for black peasant farmers to compete.

In the 20th century, a succession of racist laws and practices completely redrew the rural and urban landscapes. The growth of the migrant labour system backed by labour bureaux, the system of passes and influx control restricted access to the city. Evictions and forced removals swelled the reserves creating conflicting and overlapping rights in land.

The colonial and apartheid state sought to extend control over the countryside by elevating and co-opting traditional leadership. The creation of the independent homelands and self-governing states generated opportunities for the expansion of local elites. As full-blown apartheid accelerated in the cities, the creation of groups areas and the planning of townships cast racial segregation in concrete.

These episodes speak of humiliation, of loss and of anger, but they also chronicle the agency and resistance of many rural and urban people who combined persistent low level non-compliance with campaigns of social mobilisation and insurrection.

These foundational narratives of dispossession encounter a range of contemporary counter-narratives as South Africans debate the land question. These draw on alternative interpretations of history and are shaped by different priorities. They privilege property rights, investment and the workings of global value chains and markets. They headline national food security, exports, economic growth, employment and prosperity. They argue for orderly change, compensation and market-led land reform. They focus primarily on agricultural land and propose mentorship, strategic partnerships, equity-sharing to give farmworkers a stake in agricultural enterprises and support emerging black commercial farmers. There is frequently a silence on the need for well-located urban land.

KB.L aims to surface and feature a range of hidden histories to provide critical perspectives on these dominant narratives. In the process we aim to combine storytelling and photographic resources to explore a wide range of topics including:

  • the multiple meanings of land-identity, rights and belonging; the rise and fall of the South African peasantry;
  • the legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act and its implementation together with the 1936 Land Act which simultaneously bought land to extend the reserves while enabling forced removals;
  • the histories of the bantustans and the de facto consolidation of their boundaries post 1994;
  • the changing nature of rural-urban linkages and what these mean for rural and urban land policy;
  • the colonial fabrication of customary law and tenure and distortions of the rural governance institutions past and present which serve to confine black people to rural enclaves as “subjects” of “native”, then “tribal authorities”;
  • the history of land administration and its collapse post 1994; the changing land rights and entitlements of women;
  • the history of mechanisation, “chemicalisation” and state subsidies for commercial agriculture;
  • the deregulation of agriculture and its implications for the sector how South Africa is integrated into global food systems; the range of initiatives, past and present, seeking to develop a modernised class of African capitalist farmers;
  • the history of extension services; changing land use and mounting climate and ecological challenges impacting on sustainable land use.

KB.L will provide a timeline of key events shaping this broader landscape. KB.L seeks to promote a deeper understanding of our history and how it shapes our contemporary context. We ask difficult questions which seek to enrich thinking and inform the development of land policies and programmes.

Land politics

This page will provide links to key source documents to track how the thinking of all the major political formations have evolved over time. Find out more from original sources how political parties past and present understood the land question.

Rural land reform

These pages unpack the design and implementation of the land reform programme from the mid 1990s to the present day.

We examine the three focal areas of land reform:

1. The restitution programme

S25(7) of the Constitution provides for the right of restitution for those dispossessed of property after the passing of the 1913 Natives Land Act.

In practice, giving effect to the rights in Section 25(7) has proved difficult, expensive and time consuming.

We reveal the evolving implementation of the restitution programme. We unpack what is involved in lodging a land claim and the process of restitution claim research. Short case studies illustrate the complexities of investigating and settling large community claims.

We pose difficult questions about the impacts of the restitution process and the widening mismatch between expectations and reality. We examine the politics of reopening restitution claims and the implications of revisiting the cut-off date for land claims.

2. The redistribution programme

We map how the redistribution programme has developed, tracking the different grants and shifting programme objectives. We profile different perspectives on the costs and benefits of the programme and examine why so many redistribution projects end in failure. We present a range of perspectives on what can be done practically to enable more equitable access to land and support the growth of smallholder livelihoods.

3. The tenure security programme

We review the different tenure security measures and their implementation. Many of the key laws seeking to protect tenure rights have been poorly implemented. The failure to properly secure tenure and record off-register rights has also been a major contributory factor in the failure of land reform to date. Weak implementation has left the door open for land grabs and elite deals, especially in some of the mineral-rich former homelands.

We discuss the extensive tenure related recommendations made in the 2017 HLP report and examine what has happened to these recommendations.

Urban land reform

Restitution in urban areas has mostly focused on providing cash compensation to families forcibly removed and dispossessed of their property through the Group Areas Act. Some high profile restitution claims like District Six in Cape Town have remained stalled for years. Aside from this has been no programme of urban land reform, other than through housing and human settlements policy.

We examine how, to date, the construction of RDP housing has mostly been on cheap land on the urban edge. We look at a range of urban land issues and problems and introduce the latest thinking on how best achieve inclusive urban development.

Land laws

Land law is a complex area.

We aim to provide a comprehensive listing of current laws on the statute books, together with a brief explanation of each. We also provide an overview of major precedent-setting court judgments which have interpreted land rights guaranteed in Section 25 and given them effect through related laws of general application.

Phase 2

Contested histories
An exploration of the history of land and dispossession in South Africa, and how the past shapes the present.
Land politics
Links to original source documents to reveal how political parties, past and present, understood the land question over time.
Rural land reform
Information on the design and implementation of the land reform programme from the mid 1990s to the present day.
Urban land reform
An examination of restitution in urban areas up to now, and the latest thinking on how best achieve inclusive urban development.
Land laws
A comprehensive listing of current laws on the statute books, together with a brief explanation of each.

Phase 3 of Knowledgebase.land

Land administration

We examine land administration in South Africa and explore what needs to change so that 60% of South Africans whose rights remain unrecorded and off-register can obtain legally secure and transactable rights in land.

We highlight growing empirical evidence from around the world that customary systems of tenure are not inherently inefficient. We review various studies examining the links between the formalisation of land rights and agricultural development in SSA. We investigate how to develop a modern and inclusive property rights registration system which affordably secures rights and prevents powerful elites from grabbing land.

Rural development

We examine what can be done to enable those with access to land to make use of it to enhance and diversify their livelihoods. We review the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) launched in 2009, providing links to programme evaluations. We highlight the argument that rural development should be a function of District Municipalities rather than a national programme run by the DRDLR.

International land reform

We highlight comparative examples of land reform programmes in other countries to identify possible lessons for South Africa. Overall, we aim to progressively develop and aggregate resources so that KB.L will become the definitive platform for access to reliable information and resources on land in South Africa.

Phase 3

Land administration
Focus on the design, development and piloting of an integrated land administration system underpinning an inclusive property rights system based on a continuum of land rights
Rural development
Critical analysis of the different approaches to rural development policy and strategy pre and post 1994
International land reform
Information on land reform programmes worldwide. Focus on policy, institution, impacts and lessons learnt

All photos used on this site are open source. Thumbnail images accompanying news articles may be subject to copyright.

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Contact Us

And to find up more about an upcoming online course at UCT you can access the brochure here http://www.cpd.uct.ac.za/sites/default/files/image_tool/images/81/brochures_2018/brochures_2019/uct-ebe-cpd-course-guidelines-for-improved-land-administration-2020-upd-2.pdf

Seventeen videos to help you better understand land administration, land governance, tenure security and much more. UCT's Dr Simon Hull and leading land and tenure researcher Dr Rosalie Kingwill provide important insights into this key area

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On average, women are still paid 20% less than men for equal work. Join us in demanding for #EqualPayDay. Say NO to discrimination against women.

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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.