Communal land tenure: can policy planning for the future be improved?


Land reform and communal land issues

Full Paper Review



David Goodwin, University of Otago, New Zealand,


In developing Geomatics for Africa, communal land tenure must be among the most intractable of the issues faced. This paper seeks insights into likely communal land policy priorities in Southern Africa by contrasting issues in Zimbabwe with those of New Zealand, whose colonisation process unfolded approximately half a century earlier.

Beginning with a background historical summary of the respective countries, the paper goes on to review their current communal tenure status and concludes that the comparison may be helpful at least in identifying issues to be aware of. In particular, fine-tuning of succession laws is likely to be an area that merits close attention, and whether state social security is ever able to deliver security comparable with kinship groups. As communal land declines in pre-eminence in the survival equation it will likely increase in symbolic importance, which could bring in its train issues such as higher accommodation densities on communal land to which people have connection.

Clear thinking is needed on whether particular portions of communal land with special cultural significance (for example, graveyards and homesteads) could best be managed by a model that optimises cultural rather than productive use.

View This Paper