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The impact of land reform on rural women in South Africa: the case of Mkhwanazi Land Restitution Programme.

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Land is considered a vital instrument that is used in the empowerment and disempowerment of people for a wide assortment of reasons as justification. For example, during apartheid in South Africa, land was used to disempower Black people. The country’s first majority rule election, which took place in 1994, carried with it an obligation to address the shameful acts perpetrated by colonialism and apartheid. One of those was the introduction of the land reform programme which focusses more on the country’s majority population disowned land and disadvantaged women who are mostly found in rural areas. The community of Mkhwanazi, like many other communities across South Africa was disowned land in the past. Studies have shown the benefits associated with land reform in empowering women in rural areas. Land is a valuable asset in rural areas because it holds the key to women empowerment and security, gives them more influence over finances and household decisions. Indeed, empirical evidence shows that where land reforms are implemented, rural women have indeed been empowered. It is for this reason that the policy document on land reform which was adopted as the White Paper in 1997 placed considerable emphasis on gender equity regarding women’s access to land and meaningful participation in decision-making procedures. Land restitution is being implemented in South Africa post-apartheid. This study’s focus is on the Mkhwanazi land restitution claim settlement. It explores the extent to which the settlement of the land restitution claim benefitted women empowerment at Mkhwanazi Land Restitution project in Umhlathuze City Municipality of the King Cetshwayo District. Adopting a qualitative research design and a case study strategy, data was collected through interviews with trustees of the community trust, administrating the restituted land and focus groups interviews with women beneficiaries of the Mkhwanazi community. The findings show that despite evidence showing how land reform benefits and empowers rural women elsewhere, women beneficiaries of Mkhwanazi have not benefitted directly and not empowered. Barriers and challenges that prohibit women empowerment were identified which limit the benefits of the reformed land.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.