Xaba, Mzingaye Brilliant (2017). 'The capabilities approach to an understanding of the land restitution programme in South Africa: The case of Macleantown and Salem restitution cases.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.



This paper seeks to apply the capability approach to land restitution programme in order to understand the human development impact of land restitution in reducing poverty. South Africa’s three-legged land reform, that is, land redistribution, land restitution and land tenure, is mainly implemented to rectify the racially based land reform patterns, reduce poverty and to improve reconciliation. Previous studies on land reform in South Africa have shown that land reform; especially land restitution has largely failed to improve the livelihoods of land beneficiaries. This negatively affects the potential for beneficiaries to achieve human development. There is a paucity of studies linking land restitution to human development, thus to engage the pessimism and doubt against the success of land restitution I conducted interviews with land restitution beneficiaries, government departments, academics and agricultural experts to understand the effect of the land restitution in those areas. Data was analysed using theoretically derived qualitative content analysis and I used Amartya Sen and Martha Nassbaum as theoretical lens. Most participants expressed concerns on how land restitution is largely failing to enable them to achieve human development because they do not have adequate post-settlement support (PSS). I conclude that given the potentially strong link between human development and land restitution, the government needs to ensure that there is provision of adequate PSS. The beneficiaries themselves have to be passionate, well-organised farmers to reap meaningful benefits from land restitution. It is envisaged that this paper will encourage academics, state officials and communities to think more about the developmental impact of access to land, rather than largely focusing on struggles to get land.

Keywords: human development, livelihoods, poverty, land restitution, post-settlement support.

scroll to top