Book Launch Provides Forum for Land Restitution Debate
The launch of Professor Bernadette Atuahene’s book, We Want What’s Ours, which recently took place at UKZN’s Westville campus created a platform for South African citizens to have their voices heard on the issue of the land restitution process.
The launch, which was hosted by Atuahene in partnership with the School of Law, was attended by academics, representatives from non-governmental organisations, students, Durban’s shack-dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, and South Africa’s Chief Land Claims Commissioner Ms Nomfundo Gobodo.
Atuahene described the book as a detailed study of South Africa’s attempts to rectify the deprivation of land suffered by thousands of people under the colonial and apartheid regimes. It teaches a critical lesson about these transitions: remedying past wrongs entails more than distributing money or even returning property, because the dispossessed did not just lose their possessions, but also had their dignity taken from them.
Atuahene, Ms Gobodo and part-time School of Law academic, Professor Ramanlal Soni who reviewed the book, engaged in a panel discussion on the successes and shortfalls of the Land Claims Court and the relevant commission processes. Attendees were included in the dialogue as they were broken up into groups to discuss the issues and to formulate recommendations which Atuahene will now take back to the Land Restitution Commission.
In his review, Soni described the book is a substantial achievement in its field. ‘The book has a methodology and content that is law allied and not pure law as such. I have no hesitation in categorically recommending it for every law library, every Land Claims Commissioner, every leader of communities that will pursue the process of land claims, every Law student for crucial enlightenment in a topical and difficult field of law and to every layman seeking enlightenment in the field of human affairs with a focus on human rights and dignity,’ he said.
Gobodo said forums such as these are needed to inspire a dialogue and give context as to why restitution is important to the country.
Abahlali baseMjondolo President, Mr S'bu Zikode, said the organisation commends UKZN for recognising that the shack dwellers also need their voices to be heard.
‘Most times when people want to talk about the poor they do not involve the people who are affected by poverty in the dialogue. We are honoured that the Law School has realised that we need discussions about restoration and dignity as they are very important to the citizens of South Africa,’ he said.Thandiwe Jumo