Negotiating Elusive Justice: Dilemmas of Land Distribution in Southern Africa
Keywords:land ownership and management, equitable distribution and productive management, utilitarian, restorative and economic empowerment logics
Transitions to democracy across southern Africa have been difficult and inevitably flawed. Shifts in international values, national demographics and power realities see social conflicts mutate through time, making societal transformation not a point of arrival, but an ongoing process. In Zimbabwe, and more recently Namibia and South Africa, land ownership and control have become bitterly contested issues. If one accepts that injustices were perpetrated in the past, what principles should guide their remedy? This article considers the complexities arising from competing conceptions of justice over land ownership and management in the context of changing political pressures and dilemmas as to who land might be taken from, along with future dilemmas about equitable distribution and productive management. If the crisis-driven experience of Zimbabwe is to be averted, stakeholders in Namibia and South Africa must find jointly acceptable principles to guide action into the future, and it is likely that no single principle of justice will suffice – a principled multi-track approach based on a mix of utilitarian, restorative and economic empowerment logics must be negotiated ... and then urgently implemented.