There is a broad consensus that agricultural development is key to unlocking the economic possibilities of the communal areas in SA. The National Development Plan confirms as much. The dominant view among development economists is that if the government would extend tradable titles to residents in the communal areas of former homelands these would enable occupiers to mortgage their land to obtain finance, with investments and economic prosperity following. But the reality it is not that simple for a number of reasons. Given the intractability of this perspective, it is worth stating what should be obvious: there are complexities related to history and how these societies have organised their governance systems and social order. The tendency to view them through the urban lens verges on ethnocentrism, which is the practice of projecting one’s social and cultural experience on another group of people. In this article, we will discuss these complexities briefly. The fault lines in comm...

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