Setting forth a rights-based land restitution strategy that marries social justice with business, South Africa’s changing land restitution strategy involves the complex triangle of rights, rural poverty and markets. Tracking the legal claims of five dispossessed communities in Levubu in Limpopo Province, since they were launched in 1997, this article analyses how the South African government balances its responsibility for development and social justice from a rural women’s perspective. Since rural women’s claims have been lodged as part of group claim it focuses on how the relationship between individual rights and group rights is constituted in laws, policies and practices. It addresses the disjuncture between national gender neutral laws and policies and the gendered outcome of the land restitution process. Towards this end, it explores how government agencies, NGOs and business partners have dealt with structures of power at household and local community levels, and in what ways they are challenging power-holders in these spheres.

* This article is part of the project Land, Water and Poverty which was funded by the Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights’ South Africa Program, both of which were carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape. We are particularly grateful to Tshililo Manenzhe, Themba Maluleke and Shirhami Shirinda and Edward Lahiff who assisted in the data collection and as former member of Nkuzi shared with us insights into the work of Nkuzi in the restitution process. We would also like to thank Ruth Hall for her detailed and insightful comments to this article.

Keywords: Land Restitution, South Africa, Women, Individual Rights, Groups Rights, NGO’s, Power