Statutory recognition of customary land rights in Africa | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

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Date of publication: 
December 2010
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This study examines the statutory recognition of customary land tenure in Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania, which were chosen as case studies because of the diverse approaches to the issue they represent. Botswana's Tribal Land Act (1968) established a system of regional land boards and transferred the land administration and management powers of customary leaders to the boards, which originally included both customary leaders and state officials among their members. It also codified the customary practices of the Tswana, and elevated their customary land rights and practices up into national legislation. Mozambique's Lei de Terras (1997) decrees that anyone living or working on land for ten years in good faith has an automatic de jure "right of use and benefit" over that land, and allows for community lands to be registered as a whole, thus formalizing communal customary rights.

Communities may continue to administer and manage their lands according to custom, with the caveat that such practices should not contravene the national constitution. Tanzania's Village Land Act (1999) makes the village both the primary land-holding unit and the centre of local land administration, management, record-keeping, and land dispute resolution. It also makes customarily-held land rights equal to formally-granted land rights, and explicitly protects the land rights of vulnerable groups. In doing so, it creates a hybrid of customary and codified law – allowing the village to dictate how things are done but holding it to strictly-defined legal mandates.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 
Knight, R.
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