Human Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 59–68 | Cite as

“The Trust is Over! We Want to Plough!”: Social Differentiation and the Reversal of Resettlement in South Africa

  • Derick A. Fay


In the early 1980s residents of Hobeni, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, were subjected to forced resettlement, under “betterment” policy ostensibly aimed at soil conservation. They were moved into a spatially contiguous but socially differentiated village. South Africa’s political transition ended this policy, and in the early 1990s, some people, mainly from part of the resettlement area (Kunene) characterized by dense kinship networks who had faced pressure to leave, and began to return voluntarily to their former sites, opting to live in dispersed, flexible settlements. Few people resettled in Mhlanganisweni, a part of the village more diverse in its social composition, returned to their former sites. This research highlights the ways exclusion within “socially-embedded” land tenure systems, together with the layout of resettlement areas and other forms of social and economic differentiation, caused patterns of resettlement to diverge from planners’ intentions.


Involuntary resettlement South Africa Land tenure Planned villages Villagization 


  1. Ashforth, A. (1990). The politics of official discourse in twentieth-century South Africa. Clarendon, Oxford.Google Scholar
  2. Berry, S. (1993). No Condition is Permanent: the Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africa. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.Google Scholar
  3. Cernea, M. (1997). The risks and reconstruction model for resettling displaced populations. World Development 25(10): 1569–1587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Downs, R. E., and Reyna, S. P. (1988). Introduction. In Reyna, S. P., and Downs, R. E. (eds.), Land and Society in Contemporary Africa. University Press of New England, Hanover.Google Scholar
  5. Drinkwater, M. (1991). The State and Agrarian Change in Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Fay, D. (2005). Kinship and Access to Land in the Eastern Cape: Implications for Land Reform. Social Dynamics 31(1): 182–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jacobs, N. J. (2003). Environment, Power, and Injustice: A South African History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Juul, K., and Lund, C. (2002). Negotiating property in Africa. Heinemann, Portsmouth.Google Scholar
  9. Kuckertz, H. (1990). Creating Order: The Image of the Homestead in Mpondo Social Life. University Press, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  10. Lodge, T. (1983). Black Politics in South Africa since 1945. Longman, New York.Google Scholar
  11. McAllister, P. A. (2001). Building the homestead: agriculture, labour and beer in South Africa's Transkei. Aldershot, Hampshire, England, Ashgate.Google Scholar
  12. McAllister, P. (1989). Resistance to ‘Betterment’ in the Transkei: A Case Study from Willowvale District. Journal of Southern African Studies 15(2): 346–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Moore, D. S. (2005). Suffering for Territory: Race, Place, and Power in Zimbabwe. Duke University Press, Durham.Google Scholar
  14. Ortner, S. B. (1995). Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal. Comparative Studies in Society and History 37(1): 173–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Palmer, R., Timmermans, H., and Fay, D. (2002). From conflict to negotiation: nature-based development on South Africa’s Wild Coast. Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria.Google Scholar
  16. Perry, J. (1981). Land, Power and the Lie. Man 16(2): 235–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Peters, P. E. (2004). Inequality and Social Conflict Over Land in Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change 4(3): 269–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Rose, L. (1991). The Politics of Harmony: Land Dispute Strategies in Swaziland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  19. Scott, J. (1998). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  20. Scudder, T., and Colson, E. (1982). From Welfare to Development: A Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of Dislocated People. In Hansen, A., and Oliver-Smith, A. (eds.), Involuntary Migration and Resettlement: The Problems and Responses of Dislocated People. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  21. Southall, R., Segar, J., and Donaldson, A. (1992). Transkei beyond the transition: Towards good government or back to the frontier? Journal of Contemporary African Studies 11(2): 270–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. de Wet, C. (1988). Stress and Environmental Change in The Analysis of Community Relocation. Human Organization 47(2): 180–187.Google Scholar
  23. de Wet, C. (1995). Moving together, drifting apart: betterment planning and villagisation in a South African homeland. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  24. Wylie, D. (2001). Starving on a Full Stomach: hunger and the triumph of cultural racism in modern South Africa. University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

Personalised recommendations