This thesis deals with the politicized struggles for land in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. One of the three branches of the postapartheid land reform programme, land restitution, is a key focus of this thesis. It is particular in its goal to compensate victims of past land dispossessions who lost land rights as result of racially-discriminatory laws by redistributing land to communities. It is argued that far from being a clearly defined programme with planned outcomes, land restitution triggers unintended outcomes. It becomes but one land claim in a social and physical landscape saturated with competing claims to land. What is discussed in this thesis as sedimented landscapes of meaning have largely determined the scope of development and a sense of redress amongst the beneficiaries of land restitution. Past structures of authority like traditional leadership have reinvented themselves and continue to prosper due to the possibilities offered by land restitution policies. More symbolically, past structures of belonging and imagined livelihoods that land restitution beneficiaries cherished in the intervening years between forced removal from their land and current restoration of land ownership, continue to animate expectations of the future. Past land use practices by private landowners and existent spatial planning frameworks also inform the scope and breadth of possible outcomes. The case study sites in this thesis are sites government deems worth preserving, one for its exceptional aesthetic value as natural and cultural heritage site (Kranspoort), the other for its being high-value commercial, export-oriented farmland (Levubu). Government in conjunction with leaders of land restitution groups and business- and land use planners have entered into Community-Public-Private-Partnerships that aim to secure the pre-restitution use of the land and a gradual transfer of management tasks to beneficiary communities. The range of actors invited into the governance of land restitution deals and the state’s experimental approach to supporting the partnership arrangements, imply that partnerships reflect laboratories of experimentation and a dynamic field of power in which positions of actors change in response to shifts in the distribution of responsibilities and resources.
The thesis develops a relational approach to place-making. It suggests abandoning the focus on the ‘land question’ or ‘agrarian question’ as expression of past and current political economies and ideological positions. It analyses the assemblages which result from the interplay of technical, value-laden interventions in spatial and business planning, community-specific ideas of past belonging and historical rights to land and the historical sedimentations associated with past land use by exiting white landowners. Various place-making practices, both symbolic and material, thus converge into what has been termed as the entangled landscapes of deracialization. Particular attention is paid to key brokers (e.g. traditional leaders, elected community representatives, contracted consultants and white farm managers), the repertoires they use, their social and cultural backgrounds and to what extent their current social- and political agency provides explanations for the unexpected outcomes of land restitution deals. In their efforts to appropriate space, these brokers draw on different registers and entitlements. Claims to landed authority based on rights as historically-dispossessed communities deserving compensation and the so-called managerial entitlements that result from the privatization of the responsibility of development may converge and co-exist in the same social space. In analyzing the incomplete nature of the transformation of racialized land relations, it is argued that although struggles for land still revolve in part around property and demands from rural constituencies and land claimants to gain access to productive land, an important shift is discernible, requiring adequate attention to the responsibility to govern managerial spaces in land restitution. This observation requires increased academic emphasis on how ‘process’ can be owned and the role and positions of well-situated social actors or brokers. It leads me to argue the importance of studying brokerage as a process and a key concept for a better understanding of emergent properties of South Africa’s landscapes of deracialization.