“Apartheid hasn’t ended. It’s still there, but in a subtle manner.” So says Mrs. Khumalo, an subject quoted in Bernadette Atuahene’s brilliant new book, “We Want What’s Ours: Learning from South Africa’s Land Restitution Program.” In the volume, Atuahene analyzes one of the most difficult and vexing post-apartheid problems in South Africa: land rights.
Plenty of academic works have been written on the problem of land rights in South Africa, but Atuahene’s contribution is unique. She argues that, beyond the simple and (relatively) easy-to-establish loss of property, a tangible and quantifiable asset, South Africans who lost their property under apartheid also lost something equally, if not more important: their dignity
Atuahene’s book is excellent. She explores an aspect of property rights that is too often ignored, but that is of particular importance in considering the full effects, physical and psychological, of systems of oppression. It is smart legal scholarship, written in accessible language that a non-specialist can easily understand.
—Laura Seay, The Washington Post
This book contains a detailed description of the steps taken in post-Apartheid South Africa to remedy past deprivations of land by racist colonial and Apartheid regimes. It emphasizes that much more than financial loss is involved. Land deprivation includes also the taking of the dignity of the former owners. If there are to be meaningful reparations, a programme designed to help restore that lost dignity is essential. The author has conducted impressive research and many moving interviews with victims of land deprivation. This book is essential reading for all interested in restorative justice.
—Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the South African Constitutional Court
Bernadette Atuahene’s We Want What’s Ours is a powerful discussion of the impacts—economic, physical, and emotional—that Apartheid-era property dispossessions have had on South Africa’s non-white urban dwellers. . . . Atuahene uses extensive interview material to illuminate the still-raw sensibilities raised by past instances of property loss, as well as the difficulties that post-Apartheid South Africa has had in attempting to provide reparation.
—Carol M. Rose, Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor Emeritus, Yale Law School
This book is a sober and nuanced reflection on the dignitary harms that accompany displacement of a people from their place on earth. Atuahene favors remedies that acknowledge and respond to those harms while revealing the successes and failures of South Africas approach to this problem. Atuahene suggests ways to improve such responses not only in South Africa but in the many places around the world that have suffered dignity takings. A compelling and humane contribution to our understanding of what we owe each other.
—Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Professor Atuahene’s book brings a fresh perspective to analysis of South Africa’s land restitution programme.
—Alan Dodson, former Judge of the South African Land Claims Court