Real Estate Practices Among Indigenous Peoples in Southern Africa: A Clash of Real Estate Systems on the Urban Fringe

Part of the Research Issues in Real Estate book series (RIRE, volume 10)


This investigation into the real estate practices of indigenous peoples in Southern Africa is accomplished through an extensive literature review and interviews undertaken with tribal members across Southern Africa. Literature of indigenous real estate studies and South African real estate history and laws are addressed. The conventional U.S. and North European model of real estate (e.g., the real estate bundle of rights) is examined and juxtaposed with the scenario that exists in six tribes in four nations, as well as three overlapping/derivative/melded cultures in South Africa and adjacent countries in Southern Africa. The study draws the conclusion that the U.S. bundle of rights applies in parts, but communal rights, (which are often not reflective of the private bundle of rights) play a dominant and important role in real estate decisions and relationships. Communal arrangements implemented and managed by tribal Chiefs in Southern Africa often dominate outside urban areas. Yet, in South Africa, tribal lands operate in a dual system, with the tribal systems placing substantial limits on control and disposition, without offering the potential for conventional financing, and often not offering formal ownership. Governments across the Southern African region are developing land management and ownership systems that challenge traditional African land ownership and transfer systems, making it possible for households to acquire some of the rights associated with formal real estate ownership. But, at the same time, the formal system comes with its problems, which include slow bureaucratic procedures and associated costs which the poor cannot afford. This also implies that Real estate development in a dual land title system along the urban edge of cities, remains a challenge for policy makers, The challenge lies in finding institutional mechanisms that gradually transform one type of real estate ownership into another, but which at the same time offers the advantages of the market and indigenous land transfer and management systems.


Real Estate Land Ownership Real Estate Market Urban Fringe Conventional Financing 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Makhomo Macheli and Maduna Clive, who assisted in the literature review and conducted some of the interviews with key tribal leaders. We also wish to acknowledge the Fulbright Foundation for providing a scholarship for Dr. Simons to come to South Africa.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Levin College of Urban AffairsCleveland State UniversityClevelandUSA

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