The long and hard road towards the recognition of land rights for black South African citizens living in rural spaces has been burdened by our country’s historical framework. Despite the transition to democracy, rural citizens continue to experience land dispossession at an astounding rate. Rural women in particular have watched mining, development initiatives and the slow pace of land reform weaken their customary and Constitutional rights to land. This erosion has been exacerbated by new laws, such as the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act, the Traditional Courts Bill and the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Bill that threaten rural democracy and will continue to disempower at least 18 million people.
The network of laws described above in particular threaten to dissolve spaces in which women can assert their rights and craft bottom-up solutions to the challenges they face.
Women are, however, a formidable force proving time-and-again their might as they fight for Constitutional rights, raise awareness about gender-based violence, and advocate for socio-economic equality.
This booklet, published by the Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC) in cooperation with the Cape Town office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, honours four such women activists. It shares the stories of Francina, Kedinametse, Lerato and Mme Grace and their experiences of fighting against inequality and for citizen land rights in South Africa.