Identity, Community and Land Claims: The People of Kutama Face Contemporary South African Realities

By Mike De Jongh.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Now that difference is no longer legislated in South Africa it is increasingly thrust to the fore in people’s lived experiences. South Africans “on the ground” now often construct their strategies and realities within the affinities of “group” – sociocultural or otherwise. Their endeavours are seemingly, encouraged or sanctioned or underpinned by explicit allowances in the South African Constitution and even requirements in concomitant legislation.

However, the resultant new politics of identity, though rooted in claims of autochthony and ancestral lands, operate in fluid frontier zone-like conditions in which identities are often situational, constructed, manipulated and even opportunistic.

This article examines the context and strategies of the people of Kutama, in the far northern South African province of Limpopo. Defeated in war in 1898, their land alienated, their leaders in exile or incarcerated, they were eventually allowed to return, and to settle in designated “locations” (later to become part of ethnically exclusive ‘homelands’ or Bantustans). Formalised by the 1913 “Land Act”, these areas were more often than not limited in extent, not well endowed ecologically and also not necessarily the original lands of their forefathers.

The Kutamas, along with diverse other groupings across the length and breadth of South Africa, have now initiated a concerted process to regain what they regard as their land. Their case has again brought to the fore the fact that place should be conceptualised as more than a physical setting or passive target for primordial sentiments of attachment. Places are politicised, socioculturally relative, historically specific, local and multiple constructions. Place hence often features prominently in shaping identity and the assertion of locality becomes a manner of political activism.

Keywords: Kutama, South Africa, Space, Place, Land Claims, Identity

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.91-100. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 564.146KB).

Prof. Mike De Jongh

Chair of Department, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

Experience: High School Teacher (Victoria Park, Port Elizabeth); Junior Lecturer, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer; (UPE/Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University); Assistant Lecturer and Researcher (University of Florida, USA); Doctoral student (University of Florida, USA); Visiting professor (University of South Florida, USA); Professor of Anthropology (Unisa, 1985 - ); Foreign Faculty Adviser (University of Minnesota, USA); HOD/COD, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology (also, at times of Philosophy and Geography and Environmental Studies); Acting Deputy Dean and Dean (Unisa – Faculty of Arts). Publications and Conference Presentations: • Research reports – 20, five of which have been published in book form and one which contributed to the Draft White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance (Department of Provincial and Local Government, 2003) • Articles and chapters in books – 51 in all, 23 in accredited journals • Conference papers presented – 32, 15 of which in international forums. Awards: • “Award of Recognition and Appreciation for the Promotion and Enhancement of Anthropology in Africa over the Last Decade (Pan African Anthropological Association). • National Research Foundation Internationally Rated Researcher • Listed in the Cambridge Blue Book of Foremost International Scientists (International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England) Research Experience: • Rural: Xhosa-speaking people (Eastern Cape); Northern Sotho- and Venda-speaking people (Limpopo); Griqua and Karretjie People (Northern Cape): Tsonga-Shangaan (Mpumalanga). • Urban: Kwazakhele, New Brighton (Nelson Mandela Metropole); Botleng, Kwa Guqa, Evaton, Wesselton, Tsakane (Gauteng). • International: Mozambican refugees; Hei!um (San/Bushmen, Namibia); Tsigane (Gypsies, Switzerland) • Commissioned: Township/local authorities (Local Government); Draft White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance (Provincial and Local Government); South African Sociocultural Diversity (Home Affairs).

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