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Uncertainty and Institutional Design: Proposals for Tenure Reform in South Africa

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Cousins, Ben
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7975
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
institutional design
land tenure and use
institutional change
Abstract: "Emerging perspectives on institutions and uncertainty in natural resource management contexts include consideration of legal pluralism and multiple institutional domains, formal and informal structures and processes, and a focus on practice and process rather than rules. This article examines recent proposals for tenure reform in the former ‘homelands’ (or Bantustans) of South Africa in the light of the mixed experience of tenure reform in other African countries, in both the colonial and the post-colonial periods. It explores the issue of whether or not it is possible to legislate land rights and design administrative systems that take into account the realities of African landholding systems as complex, variable, and inherently negotiable – and characterised by a degree of uncertainty. The most innovative elements of the proposals are those which provide for a range of arenas and institutional settings, with state support and resources, for processes of claiming, negotiating, bargaining and conflict resolution over the content of rights, the boundaries of jurisdictional areas, authority in land management systems, and the distribution of the benefits of land-based livelihoods and development schemes."

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