29 March 2018 Photo Rulanzen Martin
UWC environmental researchers unpack land restitution
Mr Lindokuhle Khumalo with Dr Stephanie Cawood, CGAS Acting Director, and Prof Shirley Brooks.

The Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS) recently hosted Prof Shirley Brooks and Mr Lindokuhle Khumalo from the Department of Geography, Environmental Studies and Tourism at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), as part their seminar series. 

The subject of the talk was Environmental justice and Land Reform: Unpacking power and privilege in the context of KwaZulu-Natal’s Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. The seminar was held on the Bloemfontein Campus on 22 March 2018.

Research focus on land restitution 

Discussion on land reform is often isolated from questions about environmental justice. In addition, “Environmental justice debates have tended to focus on questions of environmental quality, especially in urban areas, such as the location of toxic waste sites near poor communities.” Their work attempts to bring these two areas of interest together.

Their work focuses on land restitution. This is the process which follows after a successful land claim. “In the case we presented, the state purchased a private game reserve, and in terms of the settlement, the land beneficiaries became the new land owners. Ownership is now vested in the community trust.” However, in terms of the settlement, a management company runs the reserve. In effect, the former land owners continue to run the operations of the company as a private game reserve. “Our work raises questions about the environmental justice of this agreement,” Mr Khumalo said. 

It is also a sad reality that many members of the beneficiary community have never set foot on the reserve; it is therefore difficult to establish how this outcome achieves true environmental justice.

What is the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme?

“The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (BSP) is an approach to extend biodiversity conservation beyond formal protected areas such as national or provincial parks,” Prof Brooks said. It is achieved by entering into legal agreements between private and communal landowners. In KwaZulu-Natal, the programme is led and facilitated by the provincial conservation authorities; it is also supported by environmental NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlands Trust

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