BACK TO THE LAND

back to the land cover

Back to the Land

Text by Marlene Winberg Photographs by Paul Weinberg With an introductory essay by Achmat Dangor The Porcupine Press, 1996 ISBN 0-620-20429-X

From the backtext: In 1994, people began to return to land in rural South Africa they had lost under apartheid. This book chronicles that process and other related aspects of the South African government’s land reform programme.The dispossession of land in this country began more than 300 years ago, but reached its peak in the apartheid years when millions of African people – and others classified as ‘non-white’ – were removed to areas designated for black occupation. Among them were people in numerous rural communities who had owned land in the ‘white’ heartland.In the closing stages of the apartheid era, the first tentative steps were taken towards restoring such land to the dispossessed. This process gained momentum after a democratic government was elected in April 1994: one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new parliament was the Restitution of Land Rights Act, providing for the restoration of land to people dispossessed after 1913. Forced removals were among the worst injustices of apartheid. By the same token, the restitution programme has been hailed as one of the new government’s most notable achievements.Life in rural South Africa will never be easy, and the resettled communities face a host of economic and environmental problems. But this book celebrates a precious moment in South Africa’s history – when the first people stepped back on to their land.

“This essay celebrates a precious moment in South Africa’s history – when the first people stepped back on to their land.”