The post-apartheid South African land reform programme meant to challenge racially based inequalities and poverty has hardly been successful in transforming the racially skewed land patterns. South African land reform debates are largely centred on the land acquisition struggles and less on post-settlement livelihoods experiences, which indicates the paucity of studies linking land restitution to human development. This paper uses the Capabilities Approach (CA) to understand the human development impact of the land restitution programme. A qualitative study was conducted in Macleantown and Salem restitution cases in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Data was analysed using the theoretically derived qualitative content analysis and the CA as theoretical lens. The paper found that these restitution projects have failed to function, leading to failure to improve the livelihoods of beneficiaries. Based on these findings, I argue that the capabilities and the agency of beneficiaries in Macleantown and Salem remain constrained in that restitution has not provided any hopes to reduce poverty and recreate the 'good' past as beneficiaries expect, which hinders beneficiaries living a life they have reason to value. Since land is a capability-enabling commodity/resource that can help to achieve different functions, this study identifies conversion factors that constrain the conversion of capabilities. I envisage that this paper will encourage relevant stakeholders on land restitution to focus largely on the developmental impact of accessing land, and the multiple meanings of land, rather than largely focusing on land acquisition struggles.


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pp. 49-72
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