Southern Africa

Mozambique’s 1997 Land Law reasserts the state’s ownership of land and provides that individuals, communities and entities can obtain long-term or perpetual rights to land, even without formal documentation of those rights. This right is known by the acronym DUAT, from the Portuguese Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento dos Terras.

While in theory, the law provides communities and individuals with strong tenure security over their land, the majority of Mozambique’s millions of rural residents lack the capacity to secure their rights in practice (despite significant civil society and government efforts to raise awareness of rights at local level). Those who are aware of their rights often don’t have the financial and technical support necessary to assert and use those rights effectively. Furthermore, the dual objectives of Mozambique’s progressive Land Law – to protect and support rural community and smallholder land-rights while encouraging an inclusive and rights-aware private investment process – have been implemented unevenly.

Local land rights remain vulnerable to capture by elites who often enjoy state support on the grounds that they have greater capacity than smallholders to bring unused resources into production. These conditions make it difficult for communities and individual landholders lacking formal land documentation to defend their land rights against third parties, make long-term investments in their land, or meaningfully engage in negotiations with the private sector. While some reform can address ambiguities in the Law, far more attention is needed to increase the government’s implementation capacity and enable an integrated approach that develops and provides accessible services for communities and allows them to fully realize the potential of their land.

The experience of land rights for women in South Africa is one of structural inequalities created through a long history of colonialization, racial and spatial apartheid, dispossession and uneven development. The experiences of women continue to be relatively invisible, going largely unreported in many official statistics. The needs of women are obscured in policies that focus largely on addressing inequality through ‘blanket’ policies that aim to improve the lives of the disadvantaged; but forget the immense disadvantages women face based on their gender and patriarchy. Oxfam aims to insure civil society can contribute to the common goal of securing Women’s Land Rights by:

- Holding government accountable to the implementation of relevant AU women's land rights instruments, policies and laws.

- Strengthening civil societies ability to monitor actions taken by government and holding them accountable to implement relevant AU instruments.

- Building up the evidence base and facilitate the strengthening of women's voice at community level in the face of discriminatory land tenure systems and undertake effective advocacy for women's land rights.

Women within South Africa face several issues in relation to land access and tenure. Women experience poor land rights formulation that disregards the layered inequalities women face based on their race, class and gender. Additionally, there is poor implementation of the progressive land rights that aim to protect women from hostile practices like land grabs by large corporations or mass evictions. Even now women and farm labourers are being forcefully removed from their life long home through mass evictions sanctioned by farm owners.  In the current debate over land expropriation without compensation and the introduction of a Bill allowing for such a process; the question here is what influence do women have over these proceedings and what real benefits will they reap from a change in the Constitution. The strong influence of traditional authorities or leaders within many rural areas within South Africa results in women being denied access to land individually or after the passing of a spouse. Often women are left dependent on the kindness of traditional leaders to grant them land for living or must depend on her in-laws, who inherit her spouses land, for her livelihood. These are just some of the issues women face that entrench land access insecurity for them and their dependents.

The women’s land rights project works in both rural and urban areas with women within formal and informal civil society organizations. We have through our first months of organizing led the designing of a training of trainers manual on transformative leadership for women’s land rights and conducted several workshops on transformative leadership in the context of women’s land rights. Oxfam has conducted focus groups discussions and produced reports on the water crises within the country and its effect on women’s livelihoods as well as doing basic land rights training that aims to give women a better understanding of the historical context of land ownership within South Africa and their land rights in a climate focused heavily on the question of land expropriation without compensation.