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The South African land question in light of Nelson Mandela’s political thought


Year published: 2020
Categories: Articles

Author / Authors:

  • Luis Cordeiro-Rodrigues
  • Jonathan O Chimakonam


African Studies, 79:2, 250-265, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2020.18060


Land redistribution in post-apartheid South Africa is a problem that has caused division and violence in the country. Particularly, the dispossession of land suffered by many Africans in South Africa and the failure of land redistribution programmes has led to a variety of protests. In this article, we analyse whether, in light of Nelson Mandela’s thought, these protests are morally justified. The point is not to contend that Mandela’s thought is correct. Instead, it is to understand what the implications of Mandela’s ideas are for the land question in South Africa today. According to Mandela’s political thought, we maintain that some forms of protest could be morally justified even if they involve property violation and symbolic destruction. However, excessively violent and radical protests would not be considered legitimate. The more violent and radical protests violate Mandela’s principles of a gradual increase of violence and of preserving future-friendly race relations. In contrast, some of the property violation and symbolic destruction protests do not disregard these principles.

Keywords: Nelson Mandela, political thought, South African land dispossession, civil disobedience, land redistribution programmes


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