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Worldview

Broken Promises of Land Reform in South Africa


During colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, repressive white governments violently seized thousands of acres from Africans without just compensation. Upon independence, whites owned over 87% of the land though they constituted less than 10% of the population.

At independence, African liberation parties struck a deal with the Apartheid government: whites would keep their jobs and property, and the African majority was promised land reform.

More than 15 years after the end of apartheid, the vast majority of Africans remain landless and impoverished, while the affluent white minority still owns most of the land.

Bernadette Atuahene is Assistant Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law. She's written several law review articles on the topic of land restitution in South Africa. In 2008, she interviewed over 150 people whose land was stolen by the apartheid government. Now she's writing a book and producing a documentary film about the issue.

She tells us why to rectify the injustice of apartheid-era land grabs, the 1994 independence government had to go all the way back to 1913. And she explains the controversy over stadium building, displacement and land use issues in the build up to the World Cup.

To learn more about the history of land restitution in South Africa, check out the PBS "Point of View" Documentary, Promised Land.

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