Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
TEMPELHOFF, JWN. Eight statements on the history of modern land tenure in the Mpumalanga Lowveld. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2012, vol.52, n.4, pp. 531-551. ISSN 2224-7912.
Since the 1990s considerable historical research has been done on the history of land tenure in South Africa. Much of the work has a bearing on the issue of land claims and restitution in the aftermath of South Africa's transition to a multiracial democracy. The government focused on the socio-economic development ofthe country and gave special attention to the upliftment ofpreviously disadvantaged South Africans. It became legal for South Africans to claim the right to land on which they had formerly lived. Many had been removed in terms of controversial racial policies of the former government. For obvious reasons both land owners and land claimants have since 1994 contracted historians to shed some light on the history of land tenure pertaining to single entities, and sometimes also large tracts of land. In addition, it was also expected of historians to try and shed some light on the future, based on their historical research findings. In the article attention is given to some new trends in the discipline of history in which the future features prominently. There seems to be broad support amongst theorists for the integration of natural and human/social sciences and technology studies in contemporary research. Furthermore, multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary research methodologies require of historians to take note increasingly of ongoing changes in scientific thinking with a view to synchronising our contemporary knowledge with an understanding of the past. Reference is made to complexity, actor-network theory (ANT) and a return to universal history. Within the framework of an empirical philosophical approach to the history of land tenure in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga eight theoretical statements are posited on the evolution of land tenure in Mpumalanga. These include: • private ownership of land is legally justified in South Africa; • the emergence of modern land tenure in Mpumalanga is the result of customary practices formalised in the nineteenth century; • land tenure can be understood in terms of our comprehension of assumptions about materialism; • lack of integration in former times undermined the legitimacy of black land ownership; • land tenure in the Lowveld should be seen as part of an ecology that includes the Middle Veld, Highveld and Drakensberg escarpment; • land is an actor and part of a network of interactions that emerged historically; • the value of land is constantly subject to entropy determined by its usefulness; and • traditionally land as a production factor was a mediatory actant, but since 1994 it has been transformed into a remediating actant. The final section of the article features a brief assessment of the manner in which European land tenure and Roman Law were transformed in the transition from classical times to the Middle Ages in Europe in the 3rd to 4th centuries CE. On the frontiers of the former empire erstwhile Roman citizens and their offspring had to find consensus on the legal tenets of land tenure in consultation with foreigners who settled in parts of the former empire. Many elements of Roman Law remained intact in parts of Europe. This was made possible by what Innes describes as processes of ethnogenesis. Contemplating the future of land tenure in Mpumalanga's Lowveld it is suggested that attention be given to the peripheral deconstruction of land tenure in a transforming commons in which negotiated processes of ethnogenesis, could potentially lead to a state of equilibrium.
Keywords : Mpumalanga; Lowveld; multi; inter; and transdisciplinarity; actor-network theory; ethnogenesis; history of modern land tenure; comparative history; methodology.